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The chimera of Power?


Sharad Gupta writes on the regional forces, set to emerge as the alternative in case of a hung parliament
TSI | Issue Dated: September 2, 2007
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The chimera of Power? They are the nowhere people, kind of political nomads. They are in power neither at the Centre nor in the states. This is why they are most restless to dislodge the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre. The disparate group, huddled together as UNPA during Presidential polls last month, has found an ally in the Left parties which for the past one year have been vowing to forge a third alternative. The Nuke deal is all set to bring them closer.

At this juncture, composition of 14th Lok Sabha doesn’t allow a non-BJP or non-Congress combination in power as the two parties together have more than half of total number of 542 Lok Sabha MPs. Secondly, most of the UNPA members have two common approaches – their anti-Congress stance and soft corner for the BJP (most of them have either been NDA constituent or have supported it from outside). Their mantra is : in Indian electoral politics, numbers matter more than ideology and alliances are more important than issues.

The propeller behind UNPA undoubtedly is the Mulayam Singh Yadav-Amar Singh duo of Samajwadi Party who are yet to reconcile to being out of power at the Centre despite being fourth largest party after Congress, BJP and CPM. They accuse Sonia Gandhi of cold-shouldering them. Having been ousted from power from Uttar Pradesh too, three months ago, they are now baying for Congress blood.

Supporting them in their current endeavor are Chandra Babu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party, J Jayalalitha’s AIADMK and Om Prakash Chautala’s INLD who might not be a formidable force in the present Lok Sabha but hope to ride on anti-incumbency wave and reap a fortune. They also expect others to join in as political crises precipitate and the nation hurtles towards a mid-term poll. Tamil Nadu parties PMK and MDMK have already started rallying around AIADMK though PMK is sharing power at the Centre. They also hope several other regional parties to jump on the bandwagon as the polls draw close. “We are in touch with a number of like-minded parties. There is no doubt we will emerge as the most potent force in the next elections”, claims Prof Ram Gopal Yadav, leader of Samajwadi Party in Lok Sabha.

There is a spurt in activities of its main rival, the BSP. Anticipating a hung parliament and pleased after bagging UP, BSP chief Mayawati has directed energies to other states like Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Delhi which are going to polls in next one year. “We are surprised with the massive support our party is getting in these states. I am sure no government can be formed in Madhya Pradesh and Chhatisgarh without us”, says Brajesh Pathak, party’s Lok sabha MP, looking after Madhya Pradesh affairs. The party hopes to bag over 100 seats in next elections – 60-65 from U.P. alone - to be in position to dictate terms at the Centre.

Third front proponents cite widening cracks within both UPA and NDA as favourable developments. “Mamata Banerjee has almost quit NDA and there are serious differences between BJP and Shiv Sena. So is the case with Janata Dal (U). They all will become part of the Third Front after fall of the UPA government,” claims a SP leader.

The UNPA leaders hope to rope in couple of UPA constituents like RJD, NCP and LJSP as well as some of them have been part of United Front government in 1996. RJD leader and Union Minister for Rural Development, Raghuvansh Prasad Singh however, doesn’t wish to commit himself. “We are with the UPA and this alliance has come to power for 10 years”, he claimed. But, prod him on the post-poll scenario if its hung parliament and UPA can’t return to power, will RJD support Third Front and he moves into a shell, “who knows what will happen tomorrow”. UNPA leaders have done their calculations. In the most likely post-poll scenario, according to them, both BJP and Congress will not be in a position to dictate terms. “The so called national parties will have their tally in double digits”, claims Telugu Desam Party’s parliamentary party leader K Yerrannaidu adding, “the regional parties are going to gain in strength at the cost of BJP and Congress and this is why I believe Third Front will come to power after next elections”.

It is this all-pervasive belief that is driving regional parties to drive hard bargain. Those on a strong wicket like BSP, are unlikely to enter into an alliance hoping to strike a harder bargain in an uncertain post-poll scenario. But, one shouldn’t be surprised if UNPA swells to a strength of a dozen-odd members. “It’s the era of coalitions. More members an alliance has, better chance it will have of forming the government”, claims Yerrannaidu. But, won’t such an experiment meet the same fate as earlier Third Front experiments tried in 1989 and 1996? Won’t there again be a clash of egos, personalities and ambitions? UNPA leaders are hopeful that the a government formed this time would last its full term. “You need a heavy pivot for smaller parties to stick together. If NDA and UPA survived so long it was because they had a core of BJP and Congress in them. The UNPA is likely to have a core of Left and couple of big regional parties”, claimed a UPA leader. But, only if wishes were horses…
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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017