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Meet the new famous five

 

These regional chieftains will ultimately decide who gets to speak from the Red Fort on August 15, 2014.
TSI | Issue Dated: November 24, 2013, New Delhi
Tags : NDA | BJP | Mamata Bannerjee | Naveen Patnaik | Modi | Jayalalitha | Uttar Pradesh |
 

This bunch promises to emerge as the Famous Five after the 2014 verdict. That’s because what they decide to do is bound to determine the future of Modi, Rahul and the next government. Two of this famous five have worked as union ministers in the BJP led NDA government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Another was a staunch ally of the BJP in the 1990s till she decided to enjoy a tea party with Sonia Gandhi. Yet another strategically and ruthlessly used the BJP as an alliance partner to expand her footprint in Uttar Pradesh. And the last is an erstwhile Congress dynast who could be a prize catch for Modi and the BJP in the aftermath of 2014. You have guessed right: we are talking about Mamata Bannerjee and Naveen Patnaik (union ministers in the Vajpayee government); Jayalalitha (BJP ally during the 1998 Lok Sabha elections); Mayawati and Y.S.R Jagan Reddy whose father the late Y.S.R Reddy was extremely close to Sonia Gandhi. Collectively, the famous five could control a huge block of about 120 Lok Sabha seats. In these times when a tally of 200 Lok Sabha seats is considered a landslide victory, there is no way that Modi can become Prime Minister without their support. Or the support of at least so e of them.

 

Of course, if Nitish Kumar and Mulayam Singh Yadav do manage to fend off the determined Narendra Modi onslaught in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, the famous five won’t need to agonize over choices. The fact is: the BJP can win 200 plus seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections only if it manages to win at least 60 of the 120 seats on offer. In the previous feature, we have already discussed how the future of Rahul Gandhi and the Gandhi Dynasty depends on the ability of the twin towers of secularism to thwart Modi. Besides, Nitish and Mulayam will find it virtually impossible to even contemplate any understanding – forget alliance – with Modi after 2014. Stranger things have happened in politics; but no sensible person would bet on that outcome.

 

The funny thing is that neither Modi nor Rahul can hope to pick up too many seats in four of these states (We have already discussed Uttar Pradesh where Mayawati will fight Mulayam and Modi). West Bengal, the erstwhile Left bastion, sends 42 members to the Lok Sabha. Even when the Congress was a Mamata ally, it was very much a junior partner. Now that there is no alliance, there is not much hope for Rahul. Even if voters are disenchanted with Mamata, it is the Left and not Congress that would benefit. As for Modi, even the BJP would be surprised if the party manages to win a few seats. The best that Modi and Rahul can hope for is a post poll deal. Tamil Nadu sends 39 members to the Lok Sabha and a popular and dominant Jayalalitha is egging on her cadres to win all 39 seats. Even if she fails in her ambitious plans, there is virtually no hope for either Modi or Rahul to win any seats in the state without a formal pre poll alliance with Karunanidhi or Jayalalitha. Again, the best that Modi and Rahul can hope for is a post poll deal. Odisha sends 21 members to the Lok Sabha and the BJP – as an alliance partner of Naveen Patnaik- was assured of a lot of these seats till 2009. After Patnaik snapped his ties with the BJP, the later has once again retreated to the fringe (In fact, Nitish Kumar is hoping to emulate Patnaik in Bihar where the BJP has historically been a fringe player). The best that Modi can hope from Odisha is a seat or two and a post poll deal with Naveen. Rahul can't even hope for a post poll deal because the Congress is the Mai rival of Naveen in the state. That brings us to the Congress citadel of Andhra Pradesh which is almost certainly crumbling. There is little doubt that Jagan Reddy will win a majority of the 25 seats that fall in the Seemandhra region. The anger against Congress is so high here that it will be lucky to win more than a couple of seats. The BJP never had a serious chance of winning seats here anyway. The best that both Modi and Rahul can hope for is a post poll deal. As for Mayawati, she will go whenever she sees a strategic advantage for her and her party. So what are the numbers that we are talking about? If the famous five don't do as well as expected, they will probably still win close to 100 seats. And if the Goddess of the ballot box smiles on them, a combined tally of 130 is not unthinkable.

 

Who will the famous five choose after 2014? The answers lie with the twin towers. If Nitish and Mulayam deny Bihar and Uttar Pradesh to Modi, the five will have no hesitation in publicly championing the cause of  ‘secularism’ and refusing to deal with a chastened Modi. But if the Modi magic works and he wins the Second Battle of Buxar, then all bets are off. The likes of Jayalalitha, Mamata and Jagan Reddy will have to contend with the reactions of Muslims, who from a sizable chunk of citizens in West Bengal, Andhra and Tamil Nadu. Jayalalitha and Mamata will face assembly elections in 2015. But then, many regional chieftains-including the born again secular Nitish Kumar- have allied with the BJP in the past without really losing a substantial chunk of minority votes. At the end of the day, it will not be slogans that will determine their choice. It will be the lure of power. Do remember, even Omar Abdullah was a minister in the NDA government not very long ago. And don't forget, even Sharad Pawar is dropping hints that nobody is untouchable in politics.

 

That is what makes Indian elections so exciting. It almost takes us back to the post medieval ages when the Mughal Dynasty was gasping for breath!

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017