Like Caesarean babies, mid-term polls can be timed. So, if the UPA and Left fail to bridge their differences over the Indo-US nuclear deal, general elections might happen — but at a time convenient to either the communists or the ruling combine.
The inevitability of the polls is apparent to all political formations. What’s in doubt is the timing. There is hope in certain quarters of a replay of the period when P.V. Narasimha Rao led a minority regime and even managed to complete a full term, surviving a no-confidence vote with the help of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha MPs in what is now remembered as the JMM bribery case.
Regardless of their brave posturing, the Left, notably the CPM, have their own set of worries in the three states in which they are a political force — West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura. They are likely to keep their counsel finally. But if the Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Lalu Prasad Yadav is to be believed, they may face setbacks in Bengal if Mamata Bannerjee and the Congress join forces.
Even the BJP’s Yashwant Sinha does not foresee the government collapsing in the ongoing monsoon session of Parliament. He says the Left, even if they part company with the UPA, might not immediately force its fall.
One factor that could tilt the scales is UPA partners’ pressure on the Left to afford them time to prepare for polls. Combined with an identical chorus from their units in Kerala and Bengal, who oppose the deal but do not favour early polls, it will be difficult for the CPM’s hardline leadership to shrug off such concerns. They cannot afford to alienate UPA parties and yet aspire to build a third front.
“If they pay no heed, we will work to swing the Bihari vote against them and in favour of Mamata,” said an RJD leader. “We need at least six months,” he added, echoing the sentiments of some Congressmen from Maharashtra. For his part, a DMK minister refused to discuss elections as he was confident of a breakthrough with the Left.
But MPs also recalled with trepidation the fate of the Chandrashekhar regime that fell on the trivial issue of two constables keeping an eye on Rajiv Gandhi’s 10, Janpath residence. Likewise, I.K. Gujral’s refusal to dump the DMK over the Jain commission report sent to seed the nebulous United Front experiment.
“No matter how much we plan, it may not be possible for us to control events which might gather a momentum of their own,” said a Union minister. His allusion was to the brinkmanship in which the PM engaged while thumbing his nose at the Left and Ronen Sen exceeding his brief to talk like a politician.