If it were not for the Model Code of Conduct, all the hyperactive players in the run-up to the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections would have sent Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswami thank-you flowers on Wednesday. No party leader would have, of course, publicly been seen mopping his brow in relief after the CEC’s announcement of a seven-phase, month-long poll schedule in April. But Mr Gopalaswami has saved Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party (SP) extra pre-poll jitters, the Congress the embarrassment of being a bad sport, and the BJP from shooting its own foot. The sham marriage between the SP and the Congress had stopped being even a marriage of convenience for some time now. So Mr Yadav’s explanation that the SP has withdrawn support to the UPA government at the Centre because the Congress has “joined hands with communal forces” to topple his government in Lucknow appears to be the non sequitur that it is.
The Congress, on its part, has been spared from looking like a sour grape with mala fide intentions. Demanding President’s Rule in Uttar Pradesh after the Supreme Court disqualified 13 rebel BSP MLAs who had joined the SP is not quite the epitome of taking the higher moral ground — considering that the Congress-SP entente survived more dire events in the past. As a result of certain factions of the party clamouring for the imposition of central rule in UP while party elders remained unsure about whether that was ‘cricket’ — not to mention politically feasible — the Congress was looking like a gaggle of agitprop artists. Which brings us to the BJP, a party that seems to have gained in the ‘confusion’ and the bickerings within the SP-Congress combine. But its more full-throated support to the murmurous Congress demand of President’s Rule in the state sounded fatalistic, considering the same case could be made for states under BJP rule.
There are two clear winners from this pre-election scrum. First, the CPI(M), which has come out looking like a level-headed brokerage company, waiting not for a revolution but the resurrection of a glorious Third Front. Second, the Bahujan Samaj Party which, as always, revels in the confusion and contortions of other parties and prepares to latch on to one of them.