Political realignments, like the monsoon, follow a pattern: they happen close to key elections and are intended to salvage the electoral fortunes of those aligning and seek to reverse their opponents’ good times.
Last week’s three alignments are not different, except that they have happened in the context of the elections to the Rajya Sabha, and hold prospects for a grand team-up when the polls are held for the Lok Sabha and assembly polls in a few years or months from now.
All three re-alignments have a bearing on the plans of the United Progressive Alliance’s principal party, the Congress. Here’s a quick take on what happened:
Congress president Sonia Gandhi succeeded in persuading Praja Rajyam Party (PRP) chief Chiranjeevi to support her party in the coming Rajya Sabha elections in Andhra Pradesh.
Second, DMK chief M. Karunanidhi closed ranks with the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) after a gap of two years – without conceding its demand for a Rajya Sabha seat for its leader.
Third, after several months of failed attempts, former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda re-established his Janata Dal (Secular)’s ties with the Congress, by agreeing to support its nominees in the Upper House elections.
“Smaller regional parties that have no pathological aversion to the Congress will want to come close to it, given that the Congress is nationally well-placed and the BJP is losing its national clout,” Chennai-based political commentator V.Krishna Ananth told HT. “For the Congress, it’s a matter of convenience, as it can get more Rajya Sabha seats. But I would call it an alliance of convenience and not political realignment yet, as Lok Sabha polls are still very far off and things can change on seat sharing demands.”
However, political scientist Jyotirmaya Sharma of Hyderabad Central University brushes off the significance of these developments. “These are seasonal realignments of political forces, a part of a regional give and take. Lok Sabha polls are far off and there is not much to read into it. Political equations change when Lok Sabha or Vidhan Sabha
polls are held; Rajya Sabha polls make for strange bed fellows,” he told HT.
The Jaganmohan factor
For the Congress, party sources said, this understanding with the PRP not only helps in the Rajya Sabha elections but will act as a long-term deterrent against the possibility of a revolt by recalcitrant party MP Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy, who is also son of former chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy.
Though Reddy has ruled out leaving the party, Congress sources have estimated he has the support of about 18 MLAs. If they were to leave the Congress, the Rosaiah government could lose its majority. With support from the PRP's 18 MLAs, the Congress looks comfortable.
After his meeting with Sonia Gandhi last week, the actor-leader dropped his idea of fielding a candidate for the Rajya Sabha and agreed to back the Congress. That pleased the PRP MLAs who were hoping to become ministers in the Rosaiah government.
The PMK, a party based on the support of the Vanniyar caste, did not win a single seat in the Lok Sabha elections in 2009 and was part of the Jayalalithaa-led AIADMK front. In disgust, the PMK parted company with that alliance. PMK chief S. Ramadoss had been making a plea (through two letters) to Karunanidhi to admit his party into the DMK-led alliance and also grant a
Rajya Sabha seat to his son, Anbumani Ramadoss, who was health minister in the UPA-I.
On learning that the Congress was not keen about the return of the PMK at the Centre and was vying to woo the Vanniyars, Karunanidhi worked on a formula: prevent the PMK
from straying back into the
Jayalalithaa camp by taking it into his fold but grant an RS seat only just before or after the 2011 polls to the assembly.
Ever since his party did badly in the assembly polls two years ago and subsequently in the by-elections, JD(S) chief Deve Gowda has been at a loss of words to convince the Congress to join hands to avoid a split in “secular votes” (read anti-BJP votes).
Gowda’s desperation knew no bounds after the BJP swept the polls to
the Greater Bangalore City Corporation for the first time in the elections held in April.
When the Rajya Sabha polls were announced, Gowda wrote to Sonia Gandhi and announced JD(S) national General Secretary Danish Ali as his party candidate – despite not having the required 47 MLAs to win. Then, he did a U-turn, agreeing to back the Congress.