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Mainstream, Vol XLVII No 19, April 25, 2009

Electoral Kaleidoscope of India 2009

Sunday 26 April 2009, by Ranbir Singh

The forthcoming elections to the Lok Sabha have witnessed the emergence of a kaleidoscopic pattern of electoral competition which is baffling the Indian voter. The pattern of frequently changing political alignments has made her/his confusion all the more confounded. The old alliances are cracking and new alliances are mushrooming. Besides, their constituents keep on changing alignments. Moreover, they are present in separate alliances in different States.

The alliances that emerged after the 2004 parliamentary elections have undergone significant changes. The UPA had been squeezed after the decision of the Left Front to snap ties from it on the issue of the Nuclear Deal in July 2008. The Socialist Party of Mulayam Singh, which had come to the rescue of its government after the Left Front and the BJP-led NDA had joined hands to topple it, has parted company from the Congress due to the failure of the two to arrive at a settlement on the number of seats to be contested by each of them. Even the most reliable partner of the UPA, the Laloo Yadav-led RJD, has preferred to form an alliance with the LJP of Ramvilas Paswan which had earlier been a part of the NDA but had become a partner in the UPA in 2004. Both jettisoned the Congress in Bihar in the hope of gaining enhanced bargaining power in the post-election scene. The JMM of Shibu Soren is also pitted against the Congress in Jharkhand. Although the NCP and the Congress have been able to settle seat-sharing in Maharastra and Goa, his aspiration for Prime Ministership has prompted the NCP supremo, Sharad Pawar, to flirt with the BJD and Leftist parties in Orissa. In Jammu and Kashmir, the PDP is out of the UPA and the National Conference, which had been earlier in the NDA, is now in the UPA. The TRS of Andhra Pradesh too had walked out of the UPA much earlier on the issue of Telangana. Even the PMK of Tamil Nadu has gone out of it due to its difference with the DMK. Thus the UPA stands badly truncated. However, it has been able to rope in the TMC of Mamata Bannerji in West Bengal which had earlier been in the NDA but it can once again go back to it due to the mercurial temperament of its supremo. But, the possibility of the Left Front returning back to it for preventing the BJP from coming to power cannot be ruled out.

The NDA too has badly shrunk. As already mentioned, the National Conference is no longer in it. The Telugu Desham of Chandrababu Naidu in Andhra Pradesh, the BJD of Naveen Patnaik in Orissa and the AIADMK of Jayalalitha in Tamil Nadu too have decided to get rid of it for gaining the votes of the Muslims and Christians whose apprehensions have been magnified due to the antics of the Sangh Parivar. However, the NDA has been to able to retain the Shiv Sena in Maharastra, Akali Dal in Punjab and Janata Dal (U ) in Bihar. But even the Janata Dal (U) has expressed its reservations on the issues of Ram Mandir, uniform civil code and the abrogation of Article 370 which have been brought to the fore by the BJP in its manifesto. The BJP has, however, succeeded in wining over the AGP in Assam. It has also been able to bring back the INLD of O.P. Chautala to its fold in Haryana. The RLD of Ajit Singh too has been won over by it in UP.

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The ghost of the Third Front has also been resurrected. Now it includes the Left Front, AIADMK and PMK in Tamil Nadu, the BJD in Orissa, the Telugu Desham and TRS in Andhra Pradesh and the Janata Dal (S) in Karnataka. It is difficult to say whether the BSP is in the Third Front or out of it. Its representative attended the conclave of the Third Front, but its supremo, Mayawati, remains uncommitted and shall be opening her cards only after the elections. We should also remember that the BSP had shared power with the BJP in the past and could do so in the future. It must also be remembered that the AIADMK had been in the NDA and had also extended its hand of friendship to the Congress which preferred to keep its rival, the DMK, with itself as it is a more dependable ally. Even the PMK’s alliance with AIADMK and its continuation in the Third Front is uncertain because it has no problem with the Congress or UPA and its present stance of departing from them has been on account of its differences with the DMK supremo, Karunanidhi.

There is a Fourth Front comprising of former friends-turned-adversaries who have once again become comrades. They are the Samajwadi Party of Mulayam Singh in UP, and the RJD of Laloo Yadav and LJP of Ramvilas Paswan in Bihar. It claims to remain within the UPA and yet it is out of it; and can be in UPA once again after the elections depending upon the political interests of its partners in that scene. Although the LJP claims to be anti- BJP and anti-BSP and describes the Left parties as its natural allies, not long back it had been in the NDA and who knows that it may not once again go back to it? Though there is little chance of the Samajwadi Party joining hands with its main adversary, the BSP, they too had shared power in UP in the past. Hence, nothing can be ruled out in absolute terms.

The electoral scene has acquired kaleidoscopical character due to the conversion of the Indian party system into a multi-party or a federalised party system on account of the regionalisation of national politics and nationalisation of regional politics due to the cumulative impact of the processes of modernisation, politicisation and economic development on the one hand and on account of the Mandalisation and Mandirisation of the Indian politics on the other. The present scenario has also to be ascribed to the conversion of the Indian party system into a turnover system from a hegemonic system and into a pragmatic party system from an ideological one. The possibility of the post-election scene becoming all the more kaleidoscopic is looming large on the political horizon.

The author, a former Professor of Political Science, Kurukshetra University, Kurukshetra, is presently a Consultant, HIRD, Nilokheri.

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