Millennium Post

Instability leads to fresh elections

The Congress’s expectation that a Third Front supported by it will be able to stop Narendra Modi is not as far-fetched as some may think. Since Rajnath Singh’s grandiose dream of the BJP getting a majority of its own can be discounted, what is more realistic is the possibility of the NDA winning 230/240 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha. However, it is the crucial shortfall of 30/40 seats which the NDA will find difficult to make up, largely because of Modi’s presence at the helm.

At the same time, if the Congress wins about 100 seats, then the Third Front’s 200-plus seats will enable the two to cross the magic figure of 272. Even if the front will not be united, it is not entirely beyond the realms of possibility that the lure of the PM’s post will enthuse at least one of its leaders to make an energetic attempt to iron out the differences, at least for a short while.

Who will take the initiative? Of the several hopefuls, it is the AIADMK which has formally advanced its leader, Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa’s claim to the PM’s office. For a brief period, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, too, had evinced an interest in the post, egged on by Anna Hazare. But, after the two fell apart, she has openly backed Jayalalithaa.

For some strange reason, Mayawati has maintained an intriguing silence. Her quietness is odd considering how vociferous she was when proposing her own name for the PM’s post with the Left’s encouragement before the 2009 elections. It is possible that she has grown wise about her own inadequacies, especially after her 2012 defeat in the UP assembly elections when she squandered her huge lead over her main rival, the Samajwadi Party.

Mulayam Singh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party hasn’t pressed his claim either as he once did on the grounds that if H.D. Deve Gowda could become the PM, why cannot he? The elevation of his son, Akhilesh Yadav, to the UP chief minister’s post was seen as a move to clear the way for his own transfer to Delhi. But, the abysmal performance of the Yadav government has dented his prospects.
Of the others, Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar have refrained from being as brazen as some of their counterparts. But, even if they harbour secret ambitions, they may not be averse to backing someone else, such as Jayalalithaa if only to keep out Modi.

Arguably, it is the realisation that she has a reasonable chance if she can play her cards right which has made her distance herself from the BJP although, at one time, she was expected to form an alliance with Modi, who still describes her as a good friend.

Given the ease with which the Third Front is likely to cross the half-way mark in the Lok Sabha, its leaders may wonder whether they should let the opportunity go notwithstanding the amorphous nature of their combination and their ego hassles.

In view of Mamata Banerjee’s presence as an ally of Jayalalithaa, the Left may prefer to remain in the background, especially after the AIADMK leader’s recent snub to the communists over seat adjustments in Tamil Nadu. But, if it appears that the front has a fair chance of attaining power, the communists may not be unwilling to lend outside support.  

For the Congress, such an outcome will be the best of a bad bargain. Since there is no chance of the party playing anything other than a supporting role, the possibility of helping a ‘secular’ group attain power and frustrating Modi is the best alternative in the present scenario. It has done so before, notably between 1996 and 1998.

The Congress will also hope that unlike in that period when the BJP gained in strength after becoming kept out – increasing its seats from 161 to 182 – the chances of a similar jump are unlikely because it isn’t Atal Behari Vajpayee but the Modi-Amit Shah duo which is at the helm. Given their penchant for calling an opponent, viz. Arvind Kejriwal, a Pakistani agent and the advice given by a BJP leader to all Modi critics to go to Pakistan, the BJP will face an uphill task to expand the NDA.

It goes without saying that a Third Front government will be short-lived because the regional parties are devoid of a national outlook or a coherent economic policy.

While Jayalalithaa will be under pressure from her base in Tamil Nadu to be stern with Sri Lanka, others such as Mamata Banerjee and Nitish Kumar will look for special packages for their respective states, for which they have been clamouring for long. The Left, on its part, will probably want the nuclear deal to be scrapped and the economic reforms to be rolled back.

On the other hand, a Modi government, if it can be formed, will have too thin a majority to be stable. The chances, therefore, are that there will be another election in a year or two.IPA
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