Saturday, July 5, 2008

The price of the deal

Welcome to the Indian General Elections-2009. This whole political drama taking place at the Centre is nothing but a curtain raiser to this mega show. Two parties who were at loggerheads for the last decade or so and whose leaders were invloved in verbal spats of no mean proportions have quite unsurprisingly come together. After all politics is the art of the impossible- yup, making impossible things possible. Six months ago, Congress and the SP could not see eye to eye and the SP was vehemently fighting against the deal both in and out of the Parliament. Let us see how things may shape up as a prelude to the mega political show of 2009.

As I had mentioned in my previous blog, the 2009 General election finale may well belong to the NDA and I had also mentioned that a week in politics is more than a life time. At this stage, one thing is absolutely clear. The NDA has been resurrected, albiet by default. Now the whole game is about forging the tactical alliances to bring it back to power. It is highly unlikely that the NDA by itself will come back to power. But it could get a comfortable majority by strategically allying itself with the respective Regional parties in the so called " swing states".

The BJP has 130 members in the current Lok Sabha. Considering that to be the worst performance of the party in this decade, we can comfortably say that the BJP might well land itself with about 170-180 seats in the next Lok Sabha. This time around, the party will put up a good showing in Karnataka, thanks to the Yeduriyappa government and the populist policies they would unravel in preparatins for the general elections. Given the fact that the Yeduriyappa government is in its honey moon period, the BJP will definitely put up a good showing there. The party might even better its performance in Gujarat thanks to the Moditva factor. If the Bomaby Muncipal Corporation polls are any indication, the party along with the Shiv Sena might put up a good showing in Maharshtra. This could transalate into a 40 to 50 increase in the number of seats for the party. This is a great baseline to start with. BJP might increase its seats in a few other states too thanks to the rising inflation and fuel prices. Perhaps a tinge of anti incumbency might play its part in some Congress ruled states too. However, the biggest area of concern for the party is UP. It will be quite difficult for the party to work its way around Mayawati Raj. The core constituency of Brahmin/Thakur ( upper caste) vote has already been wooed by the shrewd Mayawati. The Yadav vote , courtesy of Kalyan Singh might also be split evenly across the BSP, SP and BJP. This means that the only way BJP can rake in good numbers in UP is through tacitly allying with BSP. A tacit alignment is well a possibility given the fact that the new Congress -SP alliance has created a kind of bipolar situation in the State. But again, all this depends on the calculation of Mayawati. After the recent spectacular showing of the BSP in the Assembly elections, she might well believe that the BSP has a fair chance of garnering 50+ seats ( out of a total of 85) in the forthcoming general elections. For its part, the BJP might be savoring an alliance with Maya's BSP.

Another swing state for the BJP is Andhra Pradesh. In his inimitable style, the TDP supremo, Chandrabhabhu Naidu is playing his cards close to his chest. Given the fact that the Congress is his main opponent in the State, it is natural for TDP to align with the BJP. But Mr. Naidu is also weary of a rising BJP in the state. By now, the possibility of a third front-( in the lines of UNPA) is a virtual impossibility. The clever politician who he is, Naidu, might well be looking again at an understanding with the BJP. This might well be a good alliance as the TDP alone cannot upstage the popularity of the YSR government in Andhra. The Y.S Rajasekhara Reddy government is not facing anti incumbency at the moment- this is a fact. But the TDP-BJP alliance can definitely give the Congress led government a run for its money.

The next swing state for the NDA is Tamil Nadu. Technically Amma's party AIADMK is not part of the NDA. But however unreliable it might be, AIADMK is gravitating itself towards the NDA. This is potentially a significant threat to Karunanidhi and Co. The current Karunanidhi-Maran family fued is likely to impact the DMK greatly. Though the Marans do not have significant political clout, they control the media empire in TN. The advantage that the Marans' owned Sun TV and Dinakaran daily could contribute to Jayalalitha is enormous. Yes- with this alliance ( plus Vaiko's MDMK), the AIADMK/MDMK/BJP alliance will reap rich rewards in the state.

The last state that I would call a swing state is Bihar. Nitish Kumar's JD( U) appears to be strong in Bihar thanks to the hugely popular CM himself. Nitish Kumar is consistently finding himself in the top 5 CM list, thanks to efficiency and the clean image that he possess. Along with that, George Fernandes' Samata party might also finding its foothold again. In the highly caste ridden Bihar politics, the USP for the BJP/JD(U)/Samata is Mr. Nitish Kumar. Lalu's RJD seems to have no chance of staging a come back this time around too.

Indian politics is becoming increasingly bi-polar- With a solid Congress led UPA and a BJP led NDA. The smaller parties have no option but to gravitate to either of these two core magnets. I have a feeling that this might well be the last time when the Left held a significant clout during government formation. Given the fact that the BJP itself might land with about 180 seats and also given the fact that these swing states are going the NDA way, it wouldn't be too difficult for the NDA to cross the magical figure of 270!!! ( Guess who might be smiling).

No comments: