Will the ensuing Lok Sabha elections favour the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance this time, too, like in 2014? So, the opinion polls say, without an iota of doubt. Initially, some of them predicted that the ruling party and its allies will end up with 232 to 252 seats, thereby ruling out an absolute majority for the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his team. However, after the government’s successful operation at Balakot in Pakistan, a few opinion polls predicted about 280 to 300 seats out of 542 for the BJP and its allies making it crystal clear that the incumbent Modi and his team need not have to hunt around for support from Independents and other parties, apart from fringe outfits after the pronouncement of verdict in the middle of May, this year.
The BJP, however, realises that complacency will mar its prospects, similar to the one faced by the Vajpayee government in 2004. So far, the party has stitched its alliance formations in a comprehensive manner. The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance, on the other hand is in a prisoner of indecision-mind on the alliance issue, following the confusion that occurred over the party’s Prime Ministerial candidate. The BJP had no hassles in naming Modi as their candidate to Mann the nation, whereas the Opposition is undecided over the naming of Rahul Gandhi as the prime ministerial candidate. For instance, when the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam working President M.K. Stalin had announced before Rahul that he was the unanimous choice of the Opposition to lead the nation in a meeting organised for the DMK-led allies and the Congress in Chennai, Stalin was under the impression that other opposition parties would follow his steps.
Instead, in a subsequent Mahagatbandhan held by the Opposition parties in Kolkata after a few days, the Trinamul Congress chief and the West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and the Telugu Desam Party President and the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, N. Chandrababu Naidu, had declared without mincing words that the Prime ministerial candidate will be decided only after the general elections. Adding fuel to the fire, the Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati and the Samajwadi Party Chief Akhilesh Yadav, apart from the Left Parties, had endorsed the view point of other opposition parties, including the Nationalist Congress Party Chief Sharad Pawar and the National Conference supremo Farooq Abdullah, thereby leaving Stalin to remain silent on the leadership issue for the time being. The SP-BSP had also decided to forge an alliance, sans Congress in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana, apart from Uttar Pradesh. Importantly, Akhilesh father and the SP supremo Mulayam Singh has openly declared on the last day of Parliament before the scheduling of elections, that he would prefer Modi to lead the nation once again, although he is contesting on the same constituency, Mayanipuri, this time, too on the SP ticket. Similar, is the preference made for Modi by the Janata Dal(Secular) patriarch and the former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda.
The BJP, keeping the realistic situation in mind, that they can no longer rely on the Modi euphoria, like the last general elections, especially, after its defeat in the three assembly elections at Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, last year, has decided to forego a reasonable number of seats in some states to accommodate their disgruntled partners. For instance, initially the party was stubborn in not letting its partner Janata Dal(United) steal the show in Bihar, but when the JD(U) supremo and the Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar was determined to have a major share in the alliance formation, after the BJP’s debacle in three assembly elections, the party President Amit Shah had to remain content by sharing 17 seats each with the JD(U) and by allocating the remaining six seats to Lok Jan Shakti led by Ram Vilas Paswan, out of 40 seats. However, the BJP is confident of retaining its past percentage in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, as according to their party analysts and cadres, the people, who voted for the Congress in the assembly polls, will vote for the BJP in the general elections, keeping the national scenario in mind.
Likewise, in Maharashtra, the Sang Pariwar was practical enough to share with Shiv Sena, as per ratio is to proportion. In Tamil Nadu, too, not surprisingly, the party left the benefit of doubt to its major partner AIADMK, when it settled for only five seats, out of 40, including Puducherry. Not only that, the BJP also did not express any reservation over another alliance partner Pattali Makkal Katchi garnering eight seats, including a Rajya Sabha berth, but also ensured that the disgruntled partner, Desiya Murpoku Dravida Kazhagam join their fold with the allocation of four seats, to combat the formidable DMK-Congress combine. The party has also not lost its hope on roping in the rebel Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam chief T.T.V. Dinakaran, if the situation warrants. The BJP is not closing any option to it when it comes to proving its majority in the Lok Sabha. In Tamil Nadu, if the BJP is more concerned about the increase in its tally for the Lok Sabha, the ruling AIADMK would like to focus on the assembly by-polls for 18 seats to be held simultaneously in the State, as nothing less than victory in ten seats would enable the minority government led by Edappadi A. Palanisamy to complete its term till 2021.
The BJP is also destined to take advantage of the failure on the part of Congress to forge an alliance in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. It is pertinent to note that the TDP had left the alliance of the BJP on the denial of Special Category Status to the State and alleging a step-motherly treatment meted out to the State by the Centre, and offered its support to the Congress and other opposition parties in opposing the ruling party at the Centre. However, subsequently, the party supremo Chandrababu Naidu had thrown a bomb-shell and decided not to forge an alliance with the Congress for the coming Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh and also for the general elections to Telangana, citing regional sentiments and a different political atmosphere in both the Telugu States, to get rid of the Congress.
However, the grapevines in political circle view that Naidu is actually worried over his survival in Andhra Pradesh, as the Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy Congress Party led by Jaganmohan Reddy is ready for a do-or-die battle with the TDP and is giving a tough time to the chief minister by using regional card effectively. Even though, the YSRCP President Jaganmohan Reddy ruled out any alliance with both the Congress and the BJP, sources in the political corridor assert that the real reason for TDP’s exit from the BJP-led NDA alliance was due to the election factor that decides the destiny of Naidu in the State. It was only an election gimmick from the chief minister to use the Special Category Status as an alibi to prove the people that he is the saviour of Andhra Pradesh. The TRS President and Chief Minister of the state, K. Chandrashekar Rao, a bête-noire of Naidu, has also ruled out any tie-up with both the Congress and the BJP for the time being, but gave an indication, albeit indirectly, that TRS would extend its support to the BJP, if the BJP retains power, in return for accommodating the party with some plump portfolios in the Central Cabinet.
In Kerala, the much talked about Congress having an understanding with the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and other Left Parties in some seats had not materialised. In Odisha, too, the National party is in a dilemma, as the Biju Janata Dal is well entrenched in the State for the last years 19 with its popular Chief Minister Navin Patnaik, providing a viable alternative to the Congress in the State for more than a decade and is likely to occupy the chair for the fifth time around, even though the skeptics around proclaim that a section of people in the State are disillusioned over the mild-mannered Chief Minister not doing anything worthwhile on the economic and employment front. The only plus factor for Patnaik, according to some political experts is that he has devised a clear-cut plan for the welfare of farmers, and his formula is being followed in Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, to some extent. Moreover, the Congress has lost its opposition status to the BJP in the State, as the latter made an inroad into the citadel of BJD in some pockets of influence in the state, of late. Since, the BJD is also going for a simultaneous election to Lok Sabha and the Assembly; it is indeed an arduous task for the Congress to create a significant impact, as the party has faced an exodus of some leaders to the BJP in the recent past.
In Assam, the contest between the Congress and Badrudin party is expected to benefit the BJP, similar to the disagreement between the Aam Admi Party and the Congress in Delhi, where the former Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit is dead against having any alliance with the AAP led by its Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal. In West Bengal, the Congress is in a quandary, as the much promised understanding with the CPI(M) in some seats out of 42 constituencies for the Lok Sabha, did not fructify, as both the parties that governed the state in the past, especially, the Marxists-led Left Front that ruled the destiny of West Bengal for 34 years without any interruption, are paling into insignificance. Here too, like in Odisha, the BJP has relegated the Congress and also the CPI(M) to the background as a major opposition party to the ruling Trinamul Congress led by Mamata Banerjee. Since, Mamata is aspiring to become the Prime Minister in future; she has not indicated any eagerness or enthusiasm to have an alliance with the Congress. Even though, she preferred to have an understanding with the Left Parties in some seats, the CPI(M) has spurned her offer, as the Marxists are afraid that unless the party led by its general secretary, Sitaram Yechury, has eight members in the Parliament, there is every possibility of the Election Commission de-recognising the party.
The Trinamul President is also aware of the fact that the State Congress is also wary of having any alliance with her party, considering the Sharada Chit Fund and Naradha scam that has eroded the popularity of Mamata and her party. Moreover, the manner in which she ensured the arrest of some CBI officials in Kolkata, when the CBI team went to investigate the West Bengal Police Commissioner on the issue, has also not endeared her to the people in general, let alone the Opposition parties. To compensate for the loss of alliance for TMC in West Bengal, Mamata has decided to forge an alliance at the national level with other like-minded parties. For instance, she offered to extend her party’s support to Makkal Neethi Maiyem led by Kamal Hasan, for a lone seat in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, apart from Tamil Nadu. In return, the actor-politician and founder-leader of MNM has promised to support the TMC in West Bengal, and wherever it is required, much against his earlier stance that his party will not offer support to any party with corruption record. However, Kamal was prudent enough to leave the benefit of doubt to Mamata, in this regard.
In Kerala, too, Mamata is trying to avoid a contest between the Congress-led United Democratic Front and the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front, as that might sail in favour of the BJP. Moreover, she is a firm believer in the adage, survival first and the acceleration comes next. Similarly, the TMC has initiated measures to prevent the splitting of Opposition votes that favours BJP, wherever possible, but is steadfast in her refusal to have any truck with the Congress. Mamata, like the other parties, would like to have the best of both the summer and winter under one roof. For example, the TMC has cautioned the Mayawati-Ajit Jogi faction in Chhattisgarh, that their split votes in the last year assembly election, which has benefitted the Congress, should not in anyway, become a cakewalk victory for the BJP in the ensuing Lok Sabha election, but at the same time, Mamata is categorical in her assertion that any alliance with her party will be only according to her whims and fancies.
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