Sleeping with the enemy
Politics is a game of possibilities. And that is what has happened when two arch rivals, the Congress and the Samajwadi Party, by coming together have ensured that the UPA government does not collapse even if the Left withdraws support on the issue of the Indo-US nuclear cooperation agreement. The alliance suits both the parties as of now and could pave the way for a re-alignment of forces at the national level. It also shows for the first time how good and smart politicking can help in outwitting political elements that seek to cause more harm than good for the ruling dispensation.
However, what the Congress needs to also understand is that Mulayam Singh Yadav is a hard-boiled politician who has come up on the strength of his hard work and practical approach and that he is not a theoretician-politician like some of the Left leaders are. Amar Singh, also an extremely shrewd entity in his own right, assists him.
In fact, Amar Singh can handle quite a few political adversaries singlehandedly and, therefore, needs to be tackled in the future also with deftness and tact. It would do the Congress good if the same bunch of people who have brokered the deal with the SP continue to cement this new found association further — at least till the tenure of this government.
But the group that managed to bring the SP on board needs to always keep in mind that the alliance with Mulayam Yadav's party is not a permanent one. Till it lasts, maximum political advantage should be derived. The SP is also going to do the same. To begin with, opposition to Mayawati and the Bahujan Samaj Party may become common factors for cementing the relationship between these two parties. It is also possible that Ajit Singh may join the grouping at some stage, so that the three forces can give a joint challenge to the might of Mayawati who can cause damage to the chances of the Congress even in states other than Uttar Pradesh.
It is also certain that if one goes strictly by UP politics, Mayawati may not want to join hands with the BJP. This would undo her strategy of luring the Muslims away from Mulayam Yadav. But it will certainly not be easy for anyone to take away the Muslims from the SP, given that the community does remember how the BSP had formed its governments in the past with active help of the BJP. But Mayawati may still hold a few aces up her sleeve. And if the BJP contests the UP polls on its own, it will not be able to even get into double digits, leave alone getting any respectable number of seats.
This could have a negative bearing on L.K.Advani’s ambitions of being Prime Minister one day. Imagine a party in power at the Centre with two or three MPs from UP, the state that accounts for 80 MPs. This, together with a few more added to this number from Bihar — another big state in the Hindi heartland where the battleground is again going to be essentially shared by Lalu Prasad Yadav’s RJD and Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal.
The Congress, too, is in a not too happy position in UP and Bihar if it has to be on its own. It can, however, reap seats from many other states to make up for the numbers. But what has added to the confusion is a statement attributed to Rahul Gandhi in which he has advocated that the Congress should go it alone in states and avoid alliances as it was hurting the party very much. Going alone can be an ideal situation and Rahul’s statement, thus, should be viewed in this context. But as of now, the Congress will have to take the field with the NCP in Maharashtra, the DMK and others in Tamil Nadu, and its alliance partners in Kerala, UP and Bihar. What Rahul apparently means is that the Congress should strive to make itself self-dependent once again and alliances should be a temporary phase.
Coming back to the bonhomie with the SP, the Congress and its UPA partners must insist on inducting some of the leaders from this party into the Union Cabinet. This would ensure that the alliance becomes more stable and the numbers of those in the government increase by more MPs than what they were before the SP joined hands with the Congress.
If Mulayam Yadav and some of his colleagues are in the Council of Ministers, their stake in running the government will go up. It is nobody’s suggestion that the SP leaders can't be trusted as they can let down the UPA at the time of a floor strength. But the comfort level of everyone will increase if they are part of the government and are involved in its running from within unlike the Left parties that dictated terms from outside. It is only a matter of months before parliamentary polls take place.
But Indian politics is, indeed, at the crossroads. The Left is likely to withdraw support on the dead issue of 'imperialism' and not on rising prices or inflation; the Congress has egg on its face after the Amarnath fiasco that has hurt the Hindu psyche; the BJP is getting impatient about coming to power; and the regional outfits are playing their own game. Between us.