This is the time for all potential political allies to get their moment in the sun. But the behaviour of some of the allies suggests that coalition politics has never been so fraught with uncertainties as it is today. At one time perhaps, a common ideology would have been guarantee enough for some smaller and regional parties to gravitate towards a larger formation. This is not so today. So we have a Sharad Pawar saying that his NCP will always stay within the UPA while his daughter appears to praise Narendra Modi, raising doubts on where Mr Pawar will eventually settle. Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray was breathing fire and brimstone against the BJP after senior leader Nitin Gadkari met Sena arch rival Raj Thackeray in a well-publicised ‘secret meeting’. Now Uddhav is all praise for the saffron party.
Perhaps the most audacious display of lack of any principles is that of Chandrashekhar Rao of the TRS, who after having got the Congress to push through the formation of Telangana, not only refused to merge his party with the Congress as had been agreed upon but is also not biting as far as a pre-poll alliance goes. In fact, the wily Rao is now in talks with the BJP. The Congress’ erstwhile southern ally, the DMK, for whom it took flak during the telecom scandal, is now showing a marked reluctance to make its intentions clear. As for the Samajwadi Party, it seems to chop and change its stance each day. The fiery Mamata Banerjee has ‘conclusively’ ruled out the BJP as an ally but seemed all sweetness and light when Mr Modi held a rally in Kolkata earlier. And she is not well known for her consistency. The AIADMK is enigmatically silent on alliances as is BSP leader Mayawati.
So we find, as we go into the election, no clear ideological divisions except between the big two and no real indication on which way the allies will go. It is tough going for both the Congress and the BJP to ascertain who will go with them. In such a situation, we could assume that the allies’ loyalties could be swung by pre-poll promises of portfolios and other sops. But given the track record of many allies, they may well change their minds repeatedly along the way. At the risk of speculation, it may be wise for the Congress and the BJP to realistically expect that the allies will only come on board after the numbers come in.