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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2555

Desperate Alliances

By M. Rama Rao & Atul Cowshish - Syndicate Features

With the Lok Sabha poll this summer well within their sights, many of our prominent political parties are either actively looking for strange bedfellows or reassessing the worth of their ties with old allies as a part of their plans for ballot nirvana. It is, of course, not necessary that all the talks about new political equations will fructify or the old alliances will totally collapse.

Experience also suggests that the ‘final’ picture of new alliances will keep shifting almost till the polling day. The smaller parties are more liable to change their minds about allies than the bigger ones, depending on the post-poll exigencies. Nevertheless, the great alliance bazaar looks hot at the moment and is worth watching.

A point that the parties hunting for new allies or dumping the old ones tend to ignore is that hurried alliances do not guarantee the desired results because often they are not welcomed at the local level while there is erosion in the credibility of the parties concerned.

In West Bengal, the Congress—at least one section of the perennially divided party in the state--is said to be keen to join hands with Mamata Bannerjee, who had broken away from the Congress to form her own party, the Trinmool Congress. A natural ‘rebel’, she had started her political career as a young leader of the Congress and then quickly established a reputation of being a stormy petrel of the party who found remaining within the ‘discipline’ of the party far too uncomfortable.

Seen as a restless and gusty woman politician, her ire has always been equally divided between communalism and strong-arm tactics of the Left parties whose long rule in her native West Bengal seems in no danger of ending. She quit the Congress because it had become too ‘soft’ on the Left. She crossed over to the camp headed by a ‘communal party’, which shares her loathing against the comrades.

After parting company with the Congress she certainly became stronger in the state. It was demonstrated by her party’s showing in a string of local and assembly bye-elections, particularly those held after she fought off what to her was a Leftist ploy to unsettle the farmers and landless peasants by giving their land to industrialists.

The BJP, however, did not get much from the alliance with her. The longevity of her decision to befriend the Congress, if it is going to be true, would depend on how soon the two parties can bring down the Marxist citadel in West Bengal. Political pundits in West Bengal are still not betting on the possibility of the Trinmool plus Congress dislodging the comrades. The two versions of the Congress may expect nothing more than an increase in the number of seats they wrest from the Left. If circumstances bring back the Congress-led UPA to power after the Lok Sabha polls with the Left playing the role of ideological mid-wife, Mamata is bound to raise the pitch against the Left Front.
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Off and on reports have appeared about the Congress shaking hands with the humble Karnataka farmer, Hardhanahalli Doddegowda Devegowda. Both sides will have to forget their bitter rivalries on display during the state assembly polls that had paved the way to unfurl the saffron flag atop the Vidhana Soudha in Bangalore. The BJP could not have thanked enough its unreliable ally of the time, Deve Gowda, for facilitating its victory.

From Rama Krishna Hegde to Yediyurappa, the Janata Dal leader had been in alliance with all those who had mattered. But by associating with Gowda, always unpredictable, ever ready with a wish list, the Congress is sure to lose more ground. The BJP is probably expecting some gains from this uneasy relationship between the Congress and JD(S) in Karnataka.

But BJP’s biggest worry at the moment is Uttar Pradesh, where it does not even know who is its biggest 'enemy': is it the Trojan Horses within; the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party, the 'casteist' Samajwadi, Maulana Mulayam Singh Yadav or the still struggling Congress?

On the face of it, it looks as though the BJP will have no major allies in UP. Maulana Mulayam has spoken of his readiness to enter into an alliance with the political mascot of Sangh Parivar but with a caveat – if only it sheds the Hindutva agenda. Predictable was the reaction of Rajnath Singh, the BJP chief. Why should we have a tie –up with him, he asked glossing over the fact that both parties have had informal understandings in Uttar Pradesh and in Delhi as well over the years, particularly the Mulayam years as the chief minister.

Needless to say, it is all a part of the Mulayam bait for the Congress which is really desperate for allies but their talks have got stuck not only on number of seats that can be GOP’s but also over Mulayam-Kalyan tie-up. The 'Maulana' thinks that his Muslim vote and the OBC vote of Kalyan could see SP through the ballot race. But Congress sees the equation in a different light. It is worried over the negative fall out of Kalyan’s Ram effect and the consequent drying up of the green vote. Hence it is keeping Mulayam’s Disproportionate Assets (DA) case on the boil and has opened a channel with Behanji, who is sitting pretty over her BSP citadel. If Mulayam hugs Advani, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate with or without any pre-condition, where will it leave poor Kalyan Singh?

Amar Singh popping up Sharad Pawar’s prime ministerial ambitions and the Maratha strongman himself talking to Sena Pramukh through Udhav Thackeray is providing enough grist to the political mill. So is the squabble within the UPA between Ram Vilas Paswan and Lalu Prasad Yadav for the numero uno in Bihar.

But the real stuff of electoral legend is 'well-wisher' Jayalalithaa’s nudge to the Congress to dump the DMK. ‘The DMK is caught in a quicksand. Those who want to help it will also be caught in the quicksand and the Congress should come out of the alliance (with DMK)’, she said in Chennai on Thursday, February 19, while solemnising wedding of 61 AIADMK members. The statement holds worrying portends for the DMK, which has already been deserted by PMK and the Left.

Desperate alliances for desperate times! We will know soon. The count down has begun.

- Asian Tribune -

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