Does Jayalalithaa have a case?
Of all the regional party leaders aspiring to become Prime Minister, Jayalalithaa is more qualified nationwide. She is an able administrator, intelligent, fluent in all the four regional languages, besides English and Hindi and has knowledge of French, the language of international diplomacy. She has been eying the office of the prime minister with single-minded devotion for the last three years. West Bengal chief minister, Mamata Banerjee, too has come out in her support. Once Mayawati hitches her wagon to Jayalalithaa’s, the JAMAMA (Jayalalithaa, Mamata and Mayawati) combination will be a formidable force, which no male-dominated party can challenge.
The AIADMK’s logic is simple. The Congress, as of now, is down and out. Barring Karnataka, the BJP has yet to take roots in south, accounting for 130 Lok Sabha seats. The entire Northeast with 24 seats has so far remained out of bounds for the BJP.
Arvind Kejriwal is not aiming at the prime ministership in the coming elections. This leaves the field wide open to regional parties. Since bringing them together under one platform has proved elusive, Jayalalithaa has taken initiative to lead an alternative formation under the aegis of the AIADMK to capture Delhi.
There is an unstated understanding among the regional leaders that unless the BJP and the NDA reach the halfway mark of 272, the one who gets the largest number of Lok Sabha seats will have the first preference to form the next government. Though UP has 80 seats, none of the parties is likely to get half that number. There will be multi-party contests for every seat in UP. With the BJP and the Congress also in the race, neither Mulayam Singh nor Mayawati is expected to emerge with a large chunks of UP seats.
In Bihar with 40 seats, Lalu Prasad and the BJP would ensure that Nitish Kumar does not walk away with the trophy notwithstanding his claim to be the most qualified to head the alternative government.
But Jayalalithaa’s major problem is wealth case in a special court in Bangalore which, after 18 years of dragging, has reached the final stage. The day of judgment is not far off when her destiny — political as well as personal — will be decided. The question is when the fateful verdict comes; before or after the elections?
The Third Front or the Federal Front has already proved to be a myth. At least, leaders of five of the 11 regional parties, constituting this alternative formation, entertain prime ministerial ambition. Each one thinks he or she is better qualified than others. T
he Left Front which has been assiduously working to promote such a front finds itself isolated. Amidst the ruins of this mythical front has emerged AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa, posing herself as the main challenger to BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, at one time her close friend.
Three months back, Election 2014 looked like a Modi versus Rahul contest but the situation has changed. Aam Aadmi Party leader, Arvind Kejriwal has emerged as a real challenger to Modi and he has people’s support, at least, in north India. He has resolved to contest against Modi wherever he stands outside Gujarat. His visit to Gujarat, his decision to utilise his detention in Gujarat— shows Kejriwal’s sharp political reflexes.
With Modi contesting from Varanasi and Kejriwal too having visited the holy city, to gauge the mood of the people which appears to be in favour of AAP. Kejriwal may prove to be a formidable challenge to the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate. He has been trying hard to widen APP’s base and eyeing the support of minorities.
There is a growing feeling in political circles, if not Kejriwal, who can stop Modi? It is believed that BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate can be stopped by a front of non-Congress, non-BJP – call it a Third Front, Federal Front or any variant – and supported by the Congress.
The trouble is that the upper class and a section of the middle class are disenchanted with APP, after Kejriwal’s dharna, his resignation as chief minister and the recent violence his party was embroiled in. With these sections gravitating towards BJP, Kejriwal might end up helping Modi.
Jayalalithaa’s initiative is significant. If Mamata’s ‘national party’ emerges as a solid group, with say 35 seats, it is not inconceivable that she might decide to join hands with Sharad Pawar’s NCP, which like TMC, came out of the Congress-fold. Together they may act as a bloc of Congresspersons to improve their bargaining position with other state satraps after the poll.
Many Congressmen, who quit the party in the past, had managed to become prime ministers, whether It was Morarji Desai, Charan Singh, V P Singh, Chandra Shekhar, H D Deve Gowda or I K Gujaral. But they failed to capture the Congress, though many had dreamt of a Congress mines the Gandhi-Nehru family.
With the idea of a pre-poll Third Front receiving a setback, and the Federal Front yet to become
viable, the regional continue to position themselves. Everything hinges on the arithmetic of the 16th Lok Sabha.