If Memory serves us right, before every general elections, political alliances break down into their constituents only to take shape again after the results are out. This ‘let’s-step-out-and-see-if-we-can-get-a-better-deal’ makes sense and the latest reports of the UPA’s pre-poll dissolution are no exception. Talk of a ‘Fourth Front’ — a socialistic coalition that stays clear of the Congress and the BJP while not being Brahminical about which ideological camp new allies may come from — is the latest talk of the democratic town. But instead of identifying a new creature making its appearance, it would be wiser to understand why political parties are rushing out of one relationship to enter — not a new relationship that would lock them in yet another perhaps unfruitful embrace — but the good old marriage market before the mating season is announced in the form of election results after May 16.
The latest departure of the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) from the UPA, like that of the Samajwadi Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal before, shouldn’t be too upsetting for the Congress. After all, like the PMK et al that have now decided to be ‘single’ again — even if under the YMCA-like roof of the ‘Fourth Front’ — the Congress (and indeed the BJP vis a vis the NDA) will also be looking for the best option to suit its post-election fortunes.
Having a ‘hard’, till-death-do-us-part alliance makes for ugly separations (remember the supporting-from-the-outside Left?). Instead, a ‘soft’ alliance makes political promiscuity — a necessity in these times of fractured votes — almost a pleasant affair. This arrangement should also be useful for the Congress if it needs to approach, say, the AIADMK one sunny day with the PMK playing go-between. As for the PMK, it’s free to send out the message to anti-Congress forces that it is free from any Congress zenana to respond to all kinds of advances.
For the Congress, still lousy at the kind of socialising required before polls, to be jittery about having to win friends and influence parties all over again is understandable. But it doesn’t mean that we have to see the ‘untangling’ of alliances this way.