The Congress has now made it clear that it will not support a Third Front government from the outside. The BJP has said much the same thing. So that leaves only one of three options: a BJP-led coalition, a Congress-led coalition or (and this is a long shot) a coalition headed by Sharad Pawar with
outside support from the BJP. (The Congress will not support Pawar).
As political parties come to terms with this reality, allies are being shuffled and reshuffled and smaller parties are re-examining their options.
Here’s the current state of play.
The Left: There’s no doubt about it. The Left is now seriously reconsidering its options in the post-poll situation. The Third Front is a non-starter so the Left has three alternatives open to it.
It could sit in the opposition and wash its hands off government formation. It could extend support to a Congress-led coalition. Or it could offer issue-based support to a ‘secular’ (i.e. Congress-led) government.
Prakash and Brinda Karat continue to talk about the Third Front even though they know that this is not a realistic option because it stops people from asking them more relevant questions. But over the last two days, even Brinda Karat has suggested on TVs The Buck Stops Here that if the Third Front does not take office, then the Left’s future course of action “is a whole new discussion.”
This line has been echoed by Sitaram Yechuri, A.B. Bardhan, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and others. So, the Left is seriously looking at new strategies.
AIADMK: Up for grabs. Jayalalitha has aligned with nearly every Central party at some stage: the Congress in 1996, the BJP in 1998, the Congress again the year after that and so on.
She has no loyalties, only a finely developed sense of self-interest. She will join whoever is likely to form the next government and gives her the best deal.
Nitish Kumar: He would be much happier in a secular alliance than he is with the NDA. He doesn’t like the Bihar BJP and they don’t like him. If he aligned with the Congress he could push the state unit around in a way that he can’t with the BJP. Plus, he would polish Lalu off - the RJD can’t align with the BJP in any circumstances so Lalu would be left all alone.
The problem is that Nitish would have to give up his Bihar government which is an alliance with the BJP. He will only do that if (a) he thinks he can win a new Assembly election and (b) if the Congress makes him a good enough offer.
So he’s keeping his options open — never mind what he says in public.
BJD: Cannot go with the Congress because of state politics. Will happily return to the NDA if the offer is good, and Naveen Patnaik will retire his newly found secularism rhetoric.
DMK: An old NDA ally. Will go back if needed. But it seems likely that the DMK will be wiped out in this election so it may find that it has limited market value.
SP: In a bind. Cannot join the NDA because of its Muslim support base. Moreover, Mulayam Singh cannot survive in the political wilderness (out of power in Delhi; out of power in Lucknow) for very long. Will have to cut a deal with the UPA if the numbers are right. He will hold out for deputy prime ministership and the dismissal of the Mayawati government, and will be turned down on both counts.
AGP: Cannot join the UPA because the Congress is its main opposition in the state. Will stay with the NDA.
TDP: Despite Rahul Gandhi’s praise, Chandrababu Naidu will never align with the Congress, his main opposition in Andhra Pradesh. Will either stay out of Delhi coalitions or will go with the NDA.
NCP: Will happily go with anybody if Sharad Pawar gets to be Prime Minister. If that doesn’t happen, will stay with the UPA.
Lalu-Paswan: In trouble. They are not doing well in Bihar and they have burnt their bridges at the Centre. Their best hope is if Nitish resists the UPA’s blandishments and the coalition still has room for them.
© Copyright © 2013 HT Media Limited. All Rights Reserved.