Millennium Post

Looking for new pastures?

With chances of a hung Lok Sabha almost certainly, both the Congress and the BJP have been looking for trustworthy allies before and after the parliamentary elections slated in May 2014. Over the years the NDA has shrunk from 24 constituents to four. As the ruling UPA is getting weak day after day, its allies are also looking to new pastures. The crushing defeat in four states – Rajasthan, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan – has forced the Congress to fast-track its decision on forging alliances in different states, keeping in view the coming Lok Sabha elections.

The victory of the BJP in four states is also likely to expedite its search for partners to sew up a formidable coalition that could oust the Congress-led UPA at the centre. In this situation, the role of the regional parties assumes vital importance. Both the Congress and the BJP have already started wooing them keeping in view the expediency of the Lok Sabha polls.

The Congress is hoping that some of these regional parties do not tie up with the BJP, given that Modi is divisive,  having a dictatorial streak. The JD(U) leader and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has already snapped its 17-year-old tie with the BJP after Narendra Modi was anointed as saffron party’s prime ministerial candidate. He has now begun distanceing himself from the Congress because of its defeat in four states. He appears to have set to go it alone in the Parliament election. Apparently, Nitish is inspired by the Aam Aadmi Party and hopes to adopt the techniques AAP set in motion in Delhi. But he conveniently forgets that Bihar is not Delhi and his JD(U) is a ruling party. Despite his party’s performance proved to be far better than Lalu-Rabri’s rule, an ally-less
Nitish may find going tough in Lok Sabha election.

Knowing fully well that it would be a daunting task to reach the magic figure of 272 on its own, the BJP has sought to reach out to some key regional parties, including the Telugu Desam Party and Karnataka’s Janata Paksha of B S Yeddyurappa. There is a buzz that On Prakash Choutala’s Indian National Lok Dal too might return to the NDA. The Akali Dal and Shiv Sena remain in NDA.

The Congress too is exploring various options. While its partnership with the NCP, National Conference and Ajit Singh’s RLD could continue, the party is also hoping that the DMK will eventually come back to UPA fold. In Bihar the Congress has the option of going either with Lalu Prasad’s RJD or the JD(U).

Now that the Supreme Court has granted bail to Lalu, his party’s poll prospects are bound to improve significantly. In the event of the Congress and the RJD again joining hands, both the parties stand to gain handsomely in the coming Lok Sabha elections.  Lalu has been serving a five-year term in Ranchi’s Birsa Munda jail for his role in the 1999 fodder scam. Lalu can now openly campaign and give a befitting reply to Narendra Modi. There is apprehension that RJD’s core voters – Yadava –could scatter if RJD appears to be a weak alternative.

There is also remote possibility of Mamata Banerjee reviving her party’s alliance with the Congress. Indications are that Congress’s vote share may erode in West Bengal too. Trinamool Congress president and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has prepared a blueprint for ensuring the defeat of Congress MPs from the state, all of whom were elected with her party’s support in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.

Congress has 6 MPs from Bengal who are likely to re-contest elections. Banerjee’s prime target is minister of state for railways Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, who represents Berhampore Lok Sabha seat.

The BJP has ruled out any truck with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), saying a previous alliance had proved disastrous for his party. ‘We formed an alliance with BSP once, we paid a heavy price for that. We will not form any alliance with the BSP,’ says BJP leader Arun Jaitley. ‘Some partners have left us, but we are hopeful we will get more partners as we emerge stronger in the (2014) election.’

Political analysts say the BJP will use its victory in four states to pressurise regional parties to join hands with it. ‘The BJP will want a greater say with its existing alliance partners and will now seek new alliance partners. This win may allow BJP to now negotiate with regional parties from a position of strength’.

With no prospects of either the Congress or the BJP reaching the magic figure of 272, both are trying for the first position. The odds are indeed appear to be against the Congress, judging by the results in four states. But the issues in a Lok Sabha elections are different than assembly polls.

 It is very well for the Congress to argue that the state polls will have no bearing on national elections. But the situation is not always so. BJP won 2003 assembly elections but lost 2004 parliament polls; Congress lost many state polls between 2004 and 2009 but won 2009 Lok Sabha elections. Therefore, nobody can say with confidence that state polls will have bearing on general elections.

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