iconimg Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Pankaj Vohra, Hindustan Times
March 30, 2009
The UPA is nearly over and as stated in this column two weeks ago, the emergence of the ‘Fourth Front’ is a foregone conclusion in the post-poll scenario. A significant aspect of the fast-changing political equations is that at least three top leaders sharing a common socialist party background have come together. The reference is obviously to Lalu Prasad Yadav, MulayaFourth Front forwardm Singh Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan. 

In fact, the old Socialist Party can be resurrected if ego and personal differences the three have with their other former colleagues — Nitish Kumar, Sharad Yadav and George Fernandes — can be sorted out. If that was to happen, the socialist block with its total domination in UP and Bihar could prove to be formidable prior to the formation of the next government. This can only be achieved if the top leaders bury their differences on the basis of the seats they get in the elections. 

India’s socialists have had a strange past and the joke in political circles is that if they are not fighting with others, then they are busy fighting each other.

They can rarely remain together for two years and remain apart for more than three years. But in the latest instance, some of these socialists with bloated egos have remained away from each other for a considerable period.

The unity of the two Yadavs and Paswan is apparently aimed to create a major pressure group in any alliance they get into following the elections. They know that the fight can go either way and it is in everyone’s interest to stick together and fight it out. They also know that by being together they can counter any attempts by the Congress to increase its influence.

A weak Congress suits them more than anything, as the country’s oldest political party will be then dependent on their support if it makes a bid to form the government. From their point of view, being equi-distant from the Congress and the BJP makes them eligible to go along with any other future formation.  

From the Congress perspective, too, the break up with Lalu, Mulayam and Paswan appears to be a positive development. For many years, the Congress has been struggling to resurrect itself in UP and Bihar that account for 120 seats in the Lok Sabha. This ‘alliance breakdown’ has provided it with an opportunity.

The calculation in the Congress is probably based on the assumption that the next government may have a short span of life given the likely complexion of the 15th Lok Sabha.

The truth is that the party is actually preparing its ground for the 16th Lok Sabha and wants to leave its impact in as many constituencies as possible even if it is unable to win most seats it is contesting in these two states. 

At the core of this thought is the belief that the short life of the next Parliament may lead to a situation where stability will once again become the main election issue. Other than the Congress, there is no other single party that can provide stability. And by the time the next elections take place, Rahul Gandhi may have evolved as a complete leader to lead the party to a victory on its own.

Another assumption is that any government that is formed at the Centre without adequate representation from UP and Bihar can never be stable.

Both the NDA and the UPA were adequately represented in these two states. Even the Third Front now is looking towards Mayawati essentially because it believes that she may swing the maximum numbers towards her side — at least in UP.

In Bihar, the front can perhaps negotiate with either of the two socialist factions subsequently. 

Several top functionaries in the Congress were predicting that a break-up with Lalu and Mulayam was essential to revive the party. But somehow their pleas went unheard since a powerful section was of the view that the support of these two leaders was necessary in the fight against the communal forces.

Rahul Gandhi’s intervention changed that when he declared that he would give tickets to the youth in seats the Congress was not expecting to win. His calculation could bring in dividends by the time the next round of parliamentary polls takes place.

If for some reason the Congress is unable to form the next government, it’s most likely that it will prefer to sit in the opposition, with perhaps Rahul as the leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha.  

The breakdown of alliances and formation of new ones is making the political scene very interesting. Most elections throw up many surprises. But it is now more or less certain that the next government irrespective of who leads it will be of the Fourth Front. Between us.