Two States That Help Decide Who Will Rule At The Centre
Both states with Uttar Pradesh sending 80 and Bihar 40 MPs to the Lok Sabha, which is just a little less than 20 per cent of the total strength of 545, play a decisive role as to which party and which leader would rule at the Centre for five years. The scramble for alliances and for garnering maximum number of voters by almost all national and regional parties is thus no surprise. In such a scenario, Aaya Rams and Gaya Rams have surfaced on a big scale. In Bihar, it’s become a big business and in UP, it’s expected to start by next month when campaigning begins in real earnest.
In Bihar, Nitish Kumar’s party JD(U) had been in power with the Bharatiya Janata Party for over a decade and a half. But a few months ago, JD(U) broke away from the BJP, because it selected Narendra Modi to be its prime minister nominee. This clashed with Nitish Kumar’s ambition to ascend to the top gaddi. Now he is alone and will fight the general elections alone, unless Congress, presently in tie-up with Lalu Yadav’s RJD, decides for greener pastures. But if Nitish Kumar joins hand with Congress, he is likely to lose a large segment of Muslims.
In the last 2009 elections, JD(U)-BJP combine won 34 seats—JD(U) 22 and BJP 12. But in the coming elections, either alone or with Congress JD(U) is not predicted to go into double digit and that would end his dream of becoming prime minister.
Earlier, the indication was that the Congress Party would align with his JD(U) but obviously it did not materialise. It aligned with Lalu Yadav’s RJD. That is the present situation. The Congress bosses presumed that Ramvilas Paswan’s LJP was already with Lalu. But now Paswan has been flirting with the BJP. If he does, the boycott of Modi by the so-called secularists would go for a toss.
Then the report came that 13 MLAs out of 22 of Lalu had rebelled. Later nine returned, and others were also slated to get back. This has led to a fierce exchange of accusations between Lalu and Nitish. Yet Lalu succeeded in salvaging his reputation and leadership. But if Paswan joins BJP, it would be a serious setback to him. The Congress might have a rethink and try to woo Nitish. This is why Lalu has been desperately trying to woo him back. All the posturing by Paswan is to extract nine seats for his party, which neither RJD nor BJP would agree to. And that could make Paswan try to join Nitish. But having been rejected by both RJD and BJP, he would not be able to blackmail Nitish. He could end up regretting his avarice. In fact alliance with Congress could alienate a large segment of Muslims. Left in the lurch, it might continue with Lalu and both being losers could decimate each other.
The field is, less than just two months away from elections, is thus wide open for the BJP. Sushil Modi, former deputy chief minister under Nitish, is credited widely for whatever development has taken place. This would help along with Modi rallies to get more to vote for the BJP. Sushil Modi has already quipped: “It was the BJP that helped Nitish to rise, now the BJP would bring him down.”
A word about Aaya Rams and Gaya Rams—their business is bound to become more lucrative as the election dates near. But the dissidence may end up weakening the anti-BJP front in Bihar. The situation that is developing with Aaya Rams and Gaya Rams could also split the Muslim votes in the state. All this would help BJP increase its tally in the state.
The more important state is Uttar Pradesh. It has always played a significant role in deciding the fate of parties vying for controlling the Centre. It has the distinction of sending eight prime ministers if we include Vajpayee as UP person. This is logical because he represented Lucknow constituency. It also includes Charan Singh who was at the ‘pleasure’ of Sanjay Gandhi who pulled the rug from under him in six months and also includes Chandrashekhar, whose government lasted four months with the support of Rajiv Gandhi.
The importance of the state is also because of some prominent MPs in every Lok Sabha from UP apart from the fact that it sends 80 MPs, the highest block. Its support largely contributes in choosing prime minister.
The parties in contention this time are the BJP, Mayawati’s BSP and Mulayam Singh’s Samajwadi Party (SP). Congress would be among also-rans. This is a poor reflection on Rahul Gandhi who has been spending maximum time in the state for five years and was committed to raising a cadre of one million. Yet he has faced protests in his own constituency of Amethi which has been with the family since Sanjay Gandhi. He won from there, losing only once in the post-Emergency elections.
This is ironic. The Indian National Congress dominated the state’s politics since Independence. In the late nineties, the rise of regional parties such as SP and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) challenged the traditional political base of the INC in the state. The BSP came to power in the state in 2007 with an absolute majority. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is also a major party in the state. In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the INC won 21 seats while the BSP won 20 and the SP won 23 seats. The BJP won 10 seats.
But since then there has been a total turnaround for the BJP. Between Amit Shah and Modi wave it is slated to emerge as first among all the parties.
As for the Congress, without any organisation worth the name, Rahul faces uphill task, especially with well-entrenched BSP and SP. BJP has in the last one year set up a huge cadre under Amit Shah, who started as RSS worker and became one of the best in creating mass bases. It is said that he has toured all the constituencies and arranged teams of ten each for every constituency. Even BSP and SP do not have such a set-up.
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is a new entrant—with youthful exuberance that has instilled in its leader Arvind Kejriwal and other members a sense of déjà vu and unfounded optimism. Kumar Vishwas, an Aam Aadmi Party leader whose name is doing the rounds as the candidate Arvind Kejriwal might field against Congress number two Rahul Gandhi in the Lok Sabha elections, has dared the BJP to make it a three-cornered fight by fielding Narendra Modi.
“If Modi really wants to end Rahul Gandhi’s reign in Amethi, let him contest from there. Or then field (BJP president) Rajnath Singh from there. Let Rahul Gandhi, Modi and me contest from Amethi and see who wins,” Vishwas, a 43-year-old poet said. This bravado could turn out to be comical and an utterly off target. Another new entrant in the electoral field is the newly formed Third Front. It is also vying for controlling the Centre. It was with 11 parties coming together with the sole objective of keeping Congress and BJP out. Calling themselves democratic, secular, federal and pro-people, leaders of these parties said they will work towards strengthening democratic framework, ending corruption and ensuring accountability in government; establishing a firm secular order; providing people-oriented developmental path and reverse the centralizing model at the Centre.
Its founders are silent about the sticky points of seat sharing and as to who would be prime minister. Yet ironically it is packed with prime minister hopefuls—Mulayam Singh, Nitish Kumar, Jayalalithaa and HD Gowda.
The 11 have also nothing in common, except one believes their desperation. They all face the embarrassment of securing negligible number of Lok Sabha seats. The Left is facing a complete rout in West Bengal at the hands of Mamta Didi. Sans BJP’s cadre and in addition, public wrath at his failure to root out corruption, Nitish Kumar faces an uphill task to get into double digits in the General Election.
Mulayam Singh is in a similar boat, despite his boastful claims. Deve Gowda should feel blessed if he wins more than one seat. BJD of Patnaik and AGP are most likely to hitch their bandwagon with Modi’s. Jaganmohan Reddy did not come either knowing full well that his party would sweep Andhra sans Telangana.
Then above all the Front faces the Arvind Kejriwal hurdle. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is positioning itself as a neutral candidate and has thrown its hat in the ring for the top job. In a contest AAP is expected to worst the Third Front.
Summing up, the Third Front like in all the previous attempts is unlikely to succeed. Apart from other obstacles, it suffers from contradictions and conflicting ambitions. Moreover, how the Left could help Mulayam Singh secure more seats, and the vice-versa is equally true. In concrete terms, this means Mayawati of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Naveen Patnaik of the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), and a handful of smaller groupings have kept their options open. Narendra Modi has also stormed the so-called bastions of most of the constituents of the Third Front on their home ground. The only one’s Modi has spared are Jayalalithaa and to some extent Mamata.
And then a sort of apology by Rajnath Singh’ the BJP President, is an indication of his party leaving nothing to chance. At the same time he has attempted to rope in the only segment suspicious of his party.
People might consider the offer to apologise a bit late but in fact this is the election season, the unbelievable and unprecedented do happen. Then if the twosome, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar ‘oblige’ Modi, his stride towards Treasury Bench would be unhindered—with the proviso that the wind does not blow the other way.
Modi is the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate and the general elections due by May are widely seen as a direct contest between him and Gandhi, though the Congress has not formally named its vice president as its candidate for PM yet.
The Aaya Rams and Gaya Rams have as yet to sprout there, but exodus from one to another is expected with the announcement of polling dates and lists of candidates by parties.
It is too early to speculate about numbers each party would win but Narendra Modi has widened his lead as candidate to become India’s prime minister and the BJP is likely to emerge as the single largest party in coming elections, according to a new opinion poll.
The poll reported by Reuters predicted the BJP and its allies would win 236 of 543 seats at stake in Parliament’s lower house, while the Congress and its allies would drop to double-digits.
So amidst all the Aaya Rams and Gaya Rams, whose tribe would proliferate as elections near, what is certain is that the BJP would emerge as the single largest party and be within striking distance of crossing 272, the magic number to rule at the Centre.
By Vijay Dutt