Big picture politics is always a compendium of short stories. But the volume now in the works on the emerging tri-polar polity is getting bulkier by the day. In a push button change of scene, the focus quite decisively has shifted away from the vote Manmohan Singh has sought for the India-US nuclear deal. The compelling pre-occupation of most parties, groupings and individual players is to extract promises and sew up alliances for the next general elections. Migratory birds flying in either direction are looking for warm abodes away from a threatened political winter.
The forces unleashed by their withdrawal of support for the Congress-led UPA have swept even the Left parties off their feet. Their quick-fix patronage (or is it the other way round?) of Mayawati is as expedient as it is ironical. It’s hard to miss the personality element in the Communists’ no-holds-barred bid for Manmohan Singh’s scalp.
In fact, the alacrity with which the Left has dumped their quest for a programme-oriented ‘Third Front’ in favour of a purely election-driven combine, would have found place in Gorky’s Untimely Thoughts penned in the early 20th century as a critique of “corruption by the dirty poison of power” in Lenin’s Russia. The Left’s embrace of Mayawati, whose caste-based BSP epitomizes the limitations of the Left’s class struggle in the Hindi belt, is as surprising as Ajit Singh’s decision to side with the UP CM. His search for a social accord between the Dalits and Jats and a fraction of Muslims isn’t quite the mix that made his father Charan Singh the big daddy in constituencies stretching from Haryana to Bihar across UP.
In his new avtaar, Ajit will fight the backwards, notably the Yadav base of Mulayam Singh that constituted the third element, after Jats and Muslims, in Charan Singh’s social scheme so effectively translated into votes. Only time will tell whether the RLD chief’s experiment will click with his Jat clansmen or balkanise further his father’s political legacy he has progressively squandered through opportunistic tie-ups. Charan Singh’s aptly named Bhartiya Lok Dal greatly influenced national politics in the 1960s and 1970s. In comparison, Ajit’s Rashtriya Lok Dal is a sub-regional, western UP entity with a prefix that overstates its political worth or presence.
From the standpoint of H.D. Deve Gowda, the ‘Third Front’ could provide the JD (S) the outside chance of regaining the political space the undivided Janata Dal lost to the BJP in Karnataka. With Mayawati by his side, he’d at least have an entity of his own in the state that reverted to a bipolar BJP-Congress polity in the last assembly polls.
Ideology obviously does not drive politicians these days —- not even the Left puritans who want to bring down the UPA in ‘national interest’ but are offering as a replacement a disparate assembly of political vested interests incapable of looking beyond their nose. If they succeed, they might end up helping the BJP, which wants simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and assemblies in states where it is in power.
Mayawati’s emergence as a prime ministerial aspirant must be giving Advani sleepless nights. But she has greater potential of becoming the Congress’s nightmare in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and MP — where she’ll divide the secular vote.