With the 2014 Lok Sabha elections due by May, all eyes are on alliances the Congress and the BJP strike to bolster their numbers in what many expect will be a hung house.
Telugu Desam Party chief N Chandrababu Naidu’s meeting with BJP president Rajnath Singh here on Sunday sparked speculation about the regional party trying to break the ice with the party it snapped links with nine years ago. BJP leaders admit that preliminary talks are on with Naidu, who has few options left in Andhra Pradesh, where he faces the formidable Jagan Mohan Reddy in the Seemandhra region and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi and the Congress in Telangana.
The Congress too has begun its efforts to win more allies, with defence minister AK Antony heading a party committee to examine various options. The party’s Jaipur Declaration earlier this year had urged all progressive and secular forces to unite against those polarising society. The Congress has made overtures to the Janata Dal (United) — which quit the NDA over Narendra Modi’s elevation as the BJP’s poll campaign chief. Besides, Antony also remarked recently that there could be areas of cooperation between the Congress and the Left parties.
The Congress also has some tough calls to take. In Bihar, it has to decide whether to court chief minister Nitish Kumar or UPA alliance partner Lalu Prasad. A lot will depend on the Congress assessment of who would gain in the emerging scenario.
In Uttar Pradesh, the Congress would be open to allying with Mayawati if she plays along. If the two come together, Muslim and Dalit voters could support their alliance. But Mayawati may not walk the extra mile for two reasons. One, she expects the BSP to gain after the Muzaffarnagar riots and may not want to share support for her party. Two, any help she extends to the Congress could eventually enable the latter to claim some Dalit votes too, which Mayawati won’t like. The Congress on its part can’t hope for the SP’s outside support — like at present — if it goes formally with the BSP.
In the BJP camp, sources claim the party is considering a tie-up with Babulal Marandi’s Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) and one with the INLD in Haryana, where Haryana Janhit Congress leader Kuldeep Bishnoi attended Narendra Modi’s Rewari rally in an indication that he is open to an alliance in 2014. The problem: Bishnoi looks at the non-Jat votes and the INLD at the Jat votes — and the two are unlikely to come together under one umbrella.
The BJP would also want to court Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) — Modi gets along well with Raj — but the Shiv Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray doesn’t favour an alliance including the MNS.
In Tamil Nadu, AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa gets along well with Modi. “But in this case, it’s best to wait till the poll results are out. If we have the numbers, she may well be interested,” a BJP leader said.
BJP veterans agree that alliances may be more difficult to strike with a polarising Modi at the helm — as most regional parties have Muslim votes to consider. But they add that Modi can increase the BJP’s tally to a point which could push potential allies to flock to it to share power. “When the poll results are announced, you’ll find a large number of allies with us,” BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said.