With opinion polls predicting a hung House, the Congress is looking at the possibility of forming a “secular” alliance of parties, which are ideologically opposed to the BJP and would not like to see Narendra Modi as the next Prime Minister.
Though Modi has been able to pre-empt the UPA’s moves by attracting some of the possible Congress allies, such as Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan, the Congress hopes that a significant number of parties “won’t touch him even with a 100-ft barge pole”, given his “divisive and polarising” image.
To prove their point, Congress leaders cite the example of Bihar CM Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) snapping its 17-year-old ties with the BJP once Modi was named the NDA’s prime ministerial candidate.
The party is also confident that the Samajwadi Party would not antagonise its Muslim vote-bank by joining hands with Modi. “It will eventually support us,” a Congress leader said.
The DMK, too, has hinted at returning to the UPA after the elections. Chief M Karunanidhi remarked that his party was willing to forgive the Congress for its “betrayal” to stop communal forces from coming to power at the Centre.
The remarks came as a shot in the arms for the Congress since the DMK had severed its ties with the UPA in 2013 on the Sri Lanka Tamils issue.
The Congress also expects that the Left will again extended outside support — as they did in 2004 — to prevent the NDA from returning to power.
The Left later withdrew support to the Congress-led government on the US nuclear deal issue in 2008.
Senior Congress leader and defence minister AK Antony’s statement, asking the Left to prove its commitment to secularism and national unity by supporting the Congress after the Lok Sabha elections is seen in this context.
“If the CPI(M) and other Left parties are sincere in their pronounced aim to keep the communal forces at bay, they will have to co-operate with a front under the Congress leadership. If they are ready to cooperate, we will accept it,” Antony said at a rally in Kerala over the weekend.
He made it clear that the UPA would try to form a secular government after the elections.
But the Congress’ main worry is the regional forces, which have earlier done business with the BJP and could do so again.
The Biju Janata Dal of Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik, the Bahujan Samaj Party of Mayawati and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress fall in this category.
Though the BJP’s alliance talks with the Telugu Desam Party is still stuck on seat-sharing arrangement, former Andhra CM Chandrababu Naidu’s party will not go with arch-rival Congress under any circumstances.
Similarly, the AIADMK of Tamil Nadu CM J Jayalalithaa will never join any grouping of which the DMK is a member.
The YSR Congress and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi both have kept their alliance options still open.