In 2006, nearly two years after the Left parties joined hands with the Congress to form the first United Progressive Alliance (UPA), both fought bitter electoral battles in Kerala and West Bengal.
The Left victory in both the states stabilised the first Congress-led coalition government at the Centre. The Left and Congress played allies and opponents as situations demanded.
In Tamil Nadu, people accepted the DMK-Congress alliance despite the bitter history they had on account of the DMK’s support for Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers, who had assassinated Rajiv Gandhi.
In Assam, the Congress retained power for a second term, despite a new Muslim party launched by perfume baron Badruddin Ajmal. Altogether, the 2006 elections in Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala consolidated UPA-1. “Until then, everyone was speculating about the imminent fall of the government,” recalls a Congress strategist.
The same states are going to polls again now; and the results will have impact on UPA-2 though the reasons are different from 2006. “The 2006 elections, in which the Left, the DMK and the Congress won, stabilised UPA-1. The current round, we hope, will salvage UPA-2,” the Congress leader said.
After the impressive election victory in May 2009, it has been a continuous downslide for the Congress and its allies, particularly the DMK, which is in the thick of the spectrum scam. Hemmed in by scandal after scandal, UPA-2 needs a dose of fresh energy. The state elections hold out that offer.
The principal opposition BJP is not significantly present in any of the four states (and one union territory) going to polls.
In Assam, the party has not been able to reach an understanding with the Assom Gana Parishad (AGP), and the Congress winning a third term is distinct possibility.
In West Bengal, the Left is in real danger of losing power after 34 years. The Congress-Trinamool alliance is very likely to be the winner. In Kerala and Puducherry, Congress victory is a foregone conclusion while Tamil Nadu is going to be cliffhanger.
With the DMK fastening its alliance with the Congress and adding new ones such as PMK and VCK, the TN elections are turning out to be a close contest.
The mass media closely managed, all imaginable welfare schemes strewn around, and a ruthless party organisation that can back it up with money and muscle, the DMK has the potential to overcome the negative fallout of the spectrum scam. “TN is one state where people get TV sets at ration shops,” points out a bureaucrat in the state.
A 5-0 victory for Congress and allies is possible. If it happens, the political mood in the country could change.