The game is now wide open. Even before the UP assembly elections are over, political parties seem to be positioning themselves to prepare for the next round, the Lok Sabha polls. The post-election scenario is likely to change the political contours and may throw up possibilities for new alliances and party equations that will determine the fate of next Lok Sabha elections.
The constituents of the Left Front have started issuing threats to the Congress-led UPA government. The CPI fired the first salvo with its general secretary, A.B. Bardhan, emphasising the need to review their support to the UPA after the assembly polls. The CPI(M), the dominant ally of the Front, which looks at a broader political canvas, has warned that the UPA would have to pay a political price unless it changes its course and makes policy ‘corrections’. In an article in its official journal, People’s Democracy, the party has almost accused the Congress and some of its allies of facilitating some of the successes of the BJP in the recent past. In essence, it has blamed the UPA government for creating conditions for the BJP’s resurgence.
The contention of the Left is that the very basis of its support to the UPA was to combat communalism and keep the BJP at bay and that does not seem to be working. The BJP is re-emerging on the national scene in a big way. It has won assembly elections in Punjab and Uttarakhand. It has done extremely well in the recently held civic polls in Maharashtra and Delhi. The CPI(M) blames the UPA for pursuing policies that are helping the communal forces to come back to centrestage.
Available indications from UP, based on media reports, predictions by pollsters and also internal assessments done by many political parties, suggest that the BJP may not come to power, but will improve its position. In the likely event of a fractured verdict, the two principal contenders for power, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati, could depend on either the BJP or the Congress to govern the state.
It is natural for the Left to feel wary. It is conscious of the fact that in real terms, the Front does not matter beyond West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura. It can have a decisive say at the Centre as long as it is crucial to the formation of the government at the Centre. That entails the support of regional parties and smaller groups. So far, the Left’s calculation has been that after the last Lok Sabha elections, the BJP was on a downward journey and would never be able to pull its act together to again emerge as a serious player at the national level.
Based on that assumption, the Left has been envisaging a bigger role for itself. It had been working on a strategy to become the nucleus of a non-Congress and non-BJP alliance at the Centre. Its calculation rested on the premise that the weakening of the BJP would force its allies to desert the BJP-led NDA and join forces with the Left. And this force would be cemented by their common anti-Congress plank.
It is for this reason alone that the Left has maintained a good equation with Mulayam Singh, despite the latter’s perceived closeness with the BJP. It also enjoys a good rapport with TDP supremo Chandrababu Naidu, who was crucial to the formation of the NDA government at the Centre.
In the event of UP delivering a fractured verdict, political calculations are bound to go haywire. The fact is that it is a numbers game. The law of probability can throw up many options. In a scenario where ideologies are rewritten to the requirements of the political parties, anything is possible. Mayawati can get the support of the BJP or the Congress. So can Mulayam. Each scenario has its own implications and can lead to different kinds of political alliances.
The Left’s rhetoric apart, the reality is also that the growth of the BJP would only force the Front to continue supporting the UPA government. A resurgent BJP will manage to keep the NDA flock together. Depending on the outcome of the UP polls, it is entirely possible that the BJP could find a powerful ally in UP — it could be Mayawati or Mulayam. Both are influential in the caste-ridden politics of the Hindi heartland and are capable of giving a boost to NDA politics.
When you factor in the calculation that regional leaders like Chandrababu Naidu and Jayalalitha could, by 2009, use a possible anti-incumbency disadvantage to the Congress and the DMK respectively and be in a position to rise to political eminence in their states again, suddenly the prospects of an NDA resurgence do not look as improbable as they did two years ago. In such an eventuality, the Left knows that it might stand the risk of losing its leverage in national politics.
Even if the Left is not at the helm or involved in a realignment of political forces after the UP polls and does continue to support the UPA government, there will definitely be a shift in its relations with the Congress. They will increase pressure on the government to influence policy matters on the grounds that it had extended support to the Congress on the basis of a common minimum programme. Perhaps, they might not even need to try hard. The chances are that within the Congress too, there will be a shifting of gears as it becomes clear that 2009 is only months away.