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That’s what friends are for

india Updated: Mar 05, 2012 23:13 IST

By the time most of you will be reading this, the outcome of the Uttar Pradesh elections will be well on its way to becoming concrete. There are two broad possibilities. One, that one of the contesting parties will win majority assembly seats on its own — the exit polls point to the Samajwadi Party (SP) being the only one possibly reaching this mark — and there will be no requirement for any alliance to form a government in Lucknow. Second, no single party reaches the magic mark of 202 seats, thereby opening the doors to a post-poll alliance. Considering that all the four major parties in the fray had gone into the polls stating and reiterating that they wouldn’t team up with any other party even if they fell short of a majority, how seriously should we take the likely turnar-ound from the parties if it comes to firming up post-poll alliances?

First of all, no one really believed Mayawati, Mulayam Singh Yadav, whoever spoke for the BJP and Rahul Gandhi when all of them insisted that they would ‘go alone’, even if it meant sitting in the opposition benches. Electoral politics needs such pre-result bravado and the voter is willing to temporarily suspend his disbelief regarding such promises. But politics isn’t only the art of the impossible; it’s primarily the art of firming up the best possibility to one’s advantage. The advantage one is considering in this case is quite simple: to form a government. For the two national parties — who seem to be confined to playing only supporting roles in the state — the advantage will seep into the general elections.

If a majority is not reached by any party today, we will see some key jockeying going on both in Lucknow and in Delhi. With a BSP-SP tie-up almost impossible according to the physical laws of nature, the permutation-combinations of an SP-Congress or a BSP-Congress or a BSP-BJP alliance are there to choose from. While the first option seems to be the most natural one (or, at least, the least unnatural one), Union minister and senior Congressman Beni Prasad Verma’s support for a Congress tie-up with the BSP could mean a new furrow being drawn for a possible follow-up. Talks of a quid pro quo — the Congress-led Centre goes easy on the Mayawati government currently under the scanner for charges of corruption involving the National Rural Health Mission in exchange of support at the Centre from the BSP, which can replace the increasingly belligerent Trinamool Congress as an ally — are not bunkum. But this is unlikely and could be merely a Congress attempt to make the SP more proactive in courting the Congress (rather than the other way round). This would make it easier for the Congress in 2014 to push its own brand, rather than that of an SP-Congress combine. Whatever be the ingredients of the government in Lucknow that comes about, we have noted one thing: all the parties have offered the same things to the electorate. In terms of policies, they’ve been pretty much identical. Ensuring that yet again, whatever be the results today, the UP polls have been decided on faces and the ability to make post-poll ‘facebook friends’, rather than on issues and a real choice for the electorate.