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Will the polls come early?

With some stakeholders declaring the possibility of early Lok Sabha elections, the players are getting ready to face polls. The million-dollar question is will there be early polls?

It may not be for the simple reason that no party and no member of parliament wants to fight elections earlier than 2014. The government too would like to compete the full term, because the Congress has always held the stability card as an election plank, and would like to wave it on the electorate once again. Except the NDA government led by Vajpayee between 1999-2004, most other non-Congress experiments had been short-lived, be it the Janata government, the V P Singh government or the United Front governments led by Deve Gowda and later by Inder Kumar Gujral.  The Congress has always used the twin planks of unity and stability all these years as its poll planks.  So why should Manmohan Singh government cut short its life unless it falls flat on the floor of the house?

However for reasons best known to themselves, most regional players have been talking of early polls. The Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh has asked his party workers to be ready to face early polls not once but many times. He has said this in public meetings, workers meetings and press conferences since his party’s impressive victory in 2012. Naturally he would like an early poll to cash in on his party’s popularity. He also wants to become a national player if his party wins a good chunk of seats and dreams of himself becoming the prime ministerial candidate or at least a kingmaker. The frequency of his statements has increased as he has realised that the honeymoon period of his son Akhilesh Yadav’s government is getting over sooner than expected. Above all, his own health is said to be causing concern.

The other powerful regional satrap Mayawati has also been cautioning her party cadres to get ready for early polls. Maya is yet to recover from the electoral blow and would need time but perhaps bravado makes her say that her party is ready. She would rather that the polls are held as per schedule because the longer the Akhilesh Yadav government remains, the better for her party as the Yadav government is losing its popularity fast.

The Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, who came to power throwing out the left rule of 34 years, too would like to have early polls to keep up the momentum. She knows that the Left parties are yet to recover and therefore it would be beneficial to her party. She also realises that her two-year-old government is losing popularity faster than expected and she has run into many controversies. She has severed her party’s connection with the Congress last year and is now outside UPA. Probably she is waiting to test her party’s strength in the coming panchayat elections.

Orissa chief minister and the BJD chief Naveen Patnaik has almost finished his one time partner the BJP in the state and the Congress is leaderless. Therefore it would be to his party’s advantage whenever the elections are held.

As far as Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa is concerned, she too had come back to power with a huge majority in 2011. The DMK is at its most vulnerable stage at this point of time. The octogenarian DMK chief M Karunanidhi is getting older and also facing deteriorating health.  His party is facing groupism led by his two sons Alagiri and Stalin. Above all, the DMK is isolated now that it has pulled out of the UPA government. Jaya, on the other hand, has made sure that her party does not lose its relevance and has been active in the Sri Lanka issue. She has ganged up with other the other regional satraps like Naveen Patnaik and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi to put pressure on the centre. An early election suits her. The strange thing is that while talking of early polls, the Yadav chieftain has made it clear that his party will not pull the plug. The BSP chief Mayawati too has declared that her party will not let down the UPA government.  Karunanidhi too has declared that he would not disturb the stability of the government.

Early polls do not suit the main opposition BJP. No Lok Sabha MP wants to face an earlier election. There is an intense leadership struggle going on at the national level with Modi trying to overtake others by becoming the BJP prime ministerial nominee. The new BJP president Rajnath Singh is yet to settle down. Karnataka Assembly polls next month will be the first acid test this year but the party is not in good shape.  It would be better to face the polls for the BJP after the Assembly polls to Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan where the party may do well. That is why despite being the main opposition party the BJP is not willing to bring a no confidence motion against the Manmohan Singh government even after the withdrawal of the DMK support to the UPA.

As for the Left parties, the less said the better as they have not learnt any lessons so far and groupism and internal fights continue to plague them. There is also lack of leadership to consolidate party structure in the Left rank and file.

As for the Congress, although a section wants early polls there is another section, which is opposed to it. Some are worried about the slide in the economy, price rise and inflation and the growing number of scams. Also it needs some time to see the results if the cash transfer scheme and the proposed Food security schemes to take off.  Above all, Rahul Gandhi, who is being projected as the prime ministerial candidate, needs more time to show his leadership qualities. In such a situation why should the Congress go for early polls? The poll talks by various leaders it perhaps only to keep the cadres enthused. (IPA)
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