There is a third angle to the Left parties’ standoff with the United Progressive Alliance on the Indo-US nuclear deal that could cut short the life of the 14th Lok Sabha — the CPM’s dream of a programme-oriented non-Congress, non-BJP political front.
On Thursday, CPM general secretary Prakash Karat defined the outer limits of what his party construed as “operationalisation” of the contentious deal. This could help the warring sides find a meeting ground between their seemingly irreconcilable positions on the nuclear pact.
But if the dispute lingers, elections, which nobody wants barring those seeking to beat delimitation of their constituencies, would be inevitable. And that brings one to the question the Left parties and the Congress need addressing, if not for themselves then at least their allies, present and potential.
What applies to the UPA partners like the RJD and the DMK also holds true for the Left’s future allies. Samajwadi Party leaders frankly admit that immediate elections could well see the Mayawati’s BSP romp home with 50 of UP’s 80 Lok Sabha seats.
Of the remaining 30, Mulayam Singh might get 25 and others the rest, they warn.
Even TDP’s Chandrababu Naidu wants to teach the Congress a lesson without foisting early polls on the country.
Now, it would be imprudent for the Left parties to aspire for a Third Front without having good endorsements at the hustings for these two parties.
Also add to that their relatively shaky ground in Kerala, West Bengal and Tripura, where they cannot possibly repeat the highest ever 2004 tally of 60 seats that has made them such important players at the Centre.
“I respect the Left parties for their conviction and ideology. But where will they stand if Mayawati joins up with the Congress-led UPA with the kind of numbers they have in the current House,” asked a top SP leader, making clear that quick mid-term polls do not suit his party.
Indeed, in the 15th House, the Left might look as silly as the Congress of 1999, when it brought down Atal Bihari Vajpayee but failed to provide an alternative, helping the saffron brigade to make a bounty out of the Kargil fiasco on which it should have lost the elections. To the possibility of UPA’s continuation as a minority government after withdrawal of support by the Left, Karat countered: “…How will it go on without our support?”
But politics is the art of the possible. The non-UPA parties are unanimous today in their disapproval of the nuclear deal. But can one discount the prospect of they seeking to time the polls to their convenience rather than going by the schedule forced by the Left’s moves?
The political class does not have answers to all these questions, the approach being that they would ’d cross the bridge when they get to it.
For her part, Mayawati has made her first move by banishing Reliance Fresh from UP, maybe not forever, but in the run up to the possible polls, to garner votes of small vendors and traders hit by the moneyed players’ intrusion on their turf.
With a pan-Indian aggregate of 60-odd MPs, the BSP leader could even force a situation where the Congress is compelled to support her and others who hitch themselves on her bandwagon, from outside.
jo jeeta wahi Sikandar