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Pankaj Vohra, Hindustan Times
February 22, 2009
Political parties have started the process of exploring new alliances as the elections draw near. The constituents of the UPA and the NDA are looking at possibilities of increasing their electoral advantage and influence by tying up with different parties. The Congress, for instance, is trying to ascertain whether an alliance with the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu will prove more fruitful than its present alliance with the DMK and some of the smaller parties in the state. It is also pondering whether this tie-up should happen prior to the Parliamentary elections or in the post-poll scenario.

Similarly, the Samajwadi Party, perhaps with the intention of putting pressure on the Congress to agree to an alliance, has hinted that it may go along with the BJP if it were to drop the Ram Mandir agenda. The Congress, however, is possibly looking at various options including neutralising the hostility of the BSP towards it in UP.

There is also some behind-the-scene activity going on in West Bengal where the possibility of an alliance between the Trinamool Congress and the Congress cannot be ruled out at this stage. For that to happen, the Trinamool and its supremo Mamta Banerjee will have to part company with the NDA and join the front against communal forces or the Left, both of which may be politically embarrassing for her. The implications of a tie-up between these two groups in West Bengal could have a very adverse bearing on the chances of the Left parties, which have controlled the state since 1977.

But such developments will certainly upset some of the constituents of the UPA, who may not be too unhappy with the Congress weakening further. In this context, the statement of some RJD leaders that the next Prime Minister will be decided in consultations with the Left assumes significance.

In Bihar, the JD (U) leadership is not very comfortable anymore with the BJP but may exercise its options only in a post- poll scenario. The chances of Lok Jan Shakti Party led by Ram Bilas Paswan having a secret understanding with the JD (U) to spite Lalu Prasad Yadav can also not be ruled out at this stage. But Paswan is a seasoned politician. He may renew his friendship with his erstwhile socialist friends in the state, though that does not mean that he is in any hurry to break away from the UPA.

Chandrababu Naidu and the TDP are already working closely with the Telengana

Rashtra Samiti and the Left parties to gain an upper hand in Andhra Pradesh. It is very important for the Congress to hold on to the state but Naidu appears to be determined to use every trick in the book to thwart this.

In Haryana, the BJP has tied up with Om Prakash Chautala’s INLD. The move has upset its lone MP, Krishan Sangwan who may, if push comes to shove, even leave the party. Many analysts feel that had BJP tied up with Bhajan Lal and his son Kuldeep Bishnoi, it would have been better placed. A tie-up with Chautala may not be fruitful as the state has a Jat Chief Minister. The need of the hour was to unite other castes against the Congress. But clearly, the political managers have miscalculated on this score. Chautala is a formidable leader but, at this stage, the other tie-up would have been better.

Similarly, in Punjab, by agreeing to support Sukhbir Singh Badal for deputy Chief Ministership, the BJP may have strengthened the Akali Dal but has certainly weakened itself. The elections will prove that the BJP’s central leadership has badly faltered on this account.

In Karnataka, the most speculated issue is about a possible alliance between the Congress and H.D. Deva Gowda. If that happens, the alliance can provide the major opposition to the BJP’s chances and could even wrest a majority of seats. This alliance will be fully dependent on who in the Congress brokers the deal.

In Maharashtra, Sharad Pawar is getting support even from the Shiv Sena while he is demanding more number of seats from the Congress to contest on the plea that his NCP is the senior partner in the state government. Pawar also wants the Congress to increase the scope of its alliance and is insisting that it has better chances in two seats in Kerala and also in Lakshwadeep where the lone member joined the NCP last year. He also wants two or three seats in Bihar and in Meghalaya and Manipur. It is to be seen whether the Congress will oblige him since many Congress leaders view him as the person who may stake his claim for the top job in the post-poll scenario.

The season of alliances will lead to a re-alignment of forces but could also contribute to instability in the present political scenario. But in this era of coalition politics, these adjustments are a necessary evil. And the only way to end this uncertainty is for people to make up their minds next time around and  give a decisive mandate to a single party. Between us.