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Hang up on the NDA?

The possibility of no alliance getting a majority seems to be in the realm of reality.

india Updated: May 10, 2004 17:53 IST
Pankaj Vohra
Pankaj Vohra
PTI
Hindustantimes

With the last phase of polling going on today, the possibility of no combination getting a majority on its own seems to be in the realm of reality. And if that happens, the country could witness yet another poll in about two years time. Political circles have already started speculating on the composition of the government at the Centre if the NDA falls short of the required majority.

Strangely, when the prolonged poll process started, there was hardly anyone who could have even thought that the NDA was not going to have a cakewalk in the elections. The hype created by the ‘India Shining’ campaign coupled with the ‘feel good’ factor turned out to be merely a campaign and didn’t catch anyone’s imagination once the campaigning picked up and issues which pitted the real India vs the cosmetic India came to the fore.

Midway through the polling phases, the NDA leaders as well as the BJP bigwigs have changed the emphasis of their statements. From a total of 334 seats predicted by a survey in end-January, the projected figure of the NDA has drastically come down. No one is willing to lay a bet whether the formation headed by the BJP in its current form will be able to cross the magic
figure of 272 on its own.

Senior leaders who at one stage claimed that the NDA would have no difficulty in crossing the 300 mark have now changed their tune. They maintain that the NDA along with perhaps some more new partners in a post-poll tie-up will constitute the government irrespective of the outcome.

The latest stand is a departure from the self-righteous attitude and the high moral ground on which certain NDA and BJP leaders like to normally stand. Their entire campaign has been run with Atal Bihari Vajpayee as the pivot and the projected PM of the formation. He has been showcased as the best PM India has had. In fact, the NDA has been asking for the mandate to rule again for five years by flaunting him in a mega-sized mould.

But what happens if the NDA and the BJP which had 282 seats in the dissolved House fall short of even 272? The message from the people to those who rule would be very clear that they have lost the mandate. In other words, the number of those who have contested against the NDA would be higher than that of the NDA. The political interpretation would be that the moral authority to form the government despite having numbers more than any other formation has been lost.

It would be similar to what happened in J&K in the last assembly polls. The ruling National Conference lost the polls but emerged as the largest single party. Thankfully, the attempts made by some of the NC functionaries to break other parties were scuttled when wisdom dawned and the party did not put forward its stake to form the government. The Congress, which had more numbers than the PDP and others, also did not stake its claim on its own but decided to join an alliance where the PDP leader became the chief minister in the form of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. The government has had its ups and downs but has been functioning.

Similarly, in 1989, Rajiv Gandhi’s Congress bagged 194 seats after enjoying an absolute majority earlier. The former PM knew that the mandate had been lost and decided to sit in the opposition allowing V.P. Singh to form the government with the Left parties and the BJP acting as the crutches.

So will the NDA also do the same if it falls short of achieving majority on its own and knowing fully well that the mandate they were seeking had not been obtained? Entering into any post-poll tie-up could amount to virtually cheating the people. And how can a government constituted on the basis of only the numbers game and no linkage with ideology last or provide stability?

If the NDA lasted nearly four and a half years, it was essentially because those who were part of the NDA set-up had compromised temporarily with ideology and tried to draw a distinction between Vajpayee and the BJP to justify their continuation. But there were several constituents of the NDA like the Lok Janshakti, the NC, the DMK, the PMK, the RLD and the INLD which either opted out or were forced to leave the formation. The relationship with the BSP and the Trinamool Congress also had its moments of ups and downs. The parting with others took place since there was no ideological binding but only power politics which was behind the alliance.

Things could be even worse if the number of seats of the BJP comes down drastically from 182 it had in the last House. Even that would have an influence on determining what kind of future tie-up the NDA could have and how much role the top BJP leaders may have in impacting decisions. The current elections can also be viewed from an ideological perspective.

On the one hand is the NDA which, because of the nature of its constitution, is influenced by the Sangh parivar whose overall leanings are towards communal politics. On the other hand are the others who, even if not in structured alliances, represent the secular space of our polity. In this space, the Congress is the largest party and hence the leader in the same manner as the BJP is the head of the NDA.

On one level it has also been a fight between secularism and communalism which has been witnessed under the garb of good governance, performance and feel good factor. One would know on Thursday which out of the two ideologies has prevailed.

Vajpayee would be the automatic choice if the NDA touches 272 but in case it does not, then it is Vajpayee alone who should set the highest example for our posterity by opting out. It may be sad but it would show what stuff statesmen are made of. Between us.