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Millennium Post

Hunt for political bedfellows

The country is looking eagerly at the outcome of the Assembly elections of the five states.  It is stated that the assembly elections are the semi final of the ensuing Lok Sabha elections slated for April 2014. Hence, the assembly elections have become more interesting and important as far as the shape of political situation that is likely to emerge is concerned.  Seemingly, in the states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhatisgarh and Delhi, the two major political parties i.e. Congress and BJP are in direct clash. The results of the four ‘cow belt states’ might decide the future political line up for the next Lok Sabha elections in 2014.  The UPA would strive hard to win ample number of seats in order to begin its third incarnation under the patronage of Sonia Gandhi, whereas the other major player  NDA would like to end its political hibernation of the last 10 years.

The next Lok Sabha elections are going to be a clash of the two personalities i.e. the already announced PM candidate of NDA, Narendra Modi and the imminent commander-in-chief of UPA, Rahul Gandhi.  As per the assessments during the recent surveys, it is going to be a see-saw contest between the two political combinations. The surveys, as of now, are projecting big gains for the regional parties, possible constituents of the future third front. It is expected that many political outfits being listed in other parties would fall in the line of either UPA or NDA before the elections.  The UPA has no dearth of allies as large number of other parties are averse to joining hands with the so-called communal outfit i.e. BJP, the major constituent of the NDA.

The NDA is probably more concerned to grab allies as it is currently being projected far  from its mission: 272.  Modi has been receiving feelers from splinter groups of the BJP from the states of Gujarat, Jharkhand and Karnataka.  The things are not taking the desired shape but for the resistance from the state units.  The NDA has started making efforts to forge the ‘Grand Alliance’ in at least two states of Haryana and Maharashtra, to overcome the effect of division of votes within the non-Congress parties.

It would be better to study the outcome of the first ever Grand Alliance of 1971 at national level prior to analysing the ground realities in these two states.   It was during the 1971 Lok Sabha elections that the opposition forged mahagathbandhan (Grand Alliance), while considering the then prime minister Indira Gandhi highly vulnerable because of certain factors, such as division in the Congress, Supreme Court’s comments on bank nationalisation, cancellation of the privy purses of the princely states and continuation of a minority Indira government surviving on the issue based support of the two communist parties, DMK and some socialists.  The parties in the Grand Alliance were the Bhartiya Jansangh, Congress(o), Swatantra Party and Samyukt Socialist Party.   Gandhi, riding the positive effect of her Garibi Hatao slogan, secured 352 seats out of 518 and the Grand Alliance met with a crushing defeat securing just 42 seats in their combined venture.

The NDA, this time, is keen to strike up a feasible Grand Alliance in Maharashtra by bringing together the two estranged cousins—Udhav of Shiv Sena and Raj of MNS, a splinter group of the former. Shiv Sena had been one of the oldest allies of the BJP in NDA.  The two parties shared power in the state from 1995 to 1999, apart from being part of the two NDA governments.  After demise of Bal Thackeray, Udhav had tried to bury hatchet with Raj but the latter refused. MNS had been game spoiler in the past in elections.  BJP contested 22 Lok Sabha seats to win 9 and Shiv Sena 26 to win 11. The BJP is somewhat ready to gift a few seats to MNS out of its share of 22, in case an alliance takes a shape for which the two cousins would have to agree.

The other fertile state for such an alliance is Haryana where the present constituents of NDA are BJP and Haryana Janhit Congress floated by the late Bhajan Lal.  Out of 10 LS seats, only one is with NDA presently, held by HJC president, Kuldip Bishnoi, son of Bhajan Lal. NDA once captured all  10 seats, equally shared by INLD and BJP in 1999.  Prior to this NDA in Haryana consisted of Haryana Vikas party of Bansi Lal and BJP.  In 1996 they secured seven seats together and in 1998 only two seats. This made BJP frightened about the outcome in 1999 Loksabha elections dumped HVP to join hands with INLD despite BJP sharing power in the state with Bansi Lal. The BJP, while encouraged from 1999 results is now interested in grand alliance with both HJC and INLD to ensure all ten seats in its kitty.

The author is a communication consultant
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