Fragile alliances

In West Bengal, if Mamata Banerjee’s vote base erodes in favour of the Left she may openly ally with the BJP

The Congress does not have any issues concerning its leadership as its president Sonia Gandhi is leading the party from the front. There is no doubt that its newly elected vice-president Rahul Gandhi and his team will spearhead the Congress’ campaign strategy for 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

The Congress’ priority should be to strengthen its position in the states it’s in power, and for the rest a step-by-step approach would be wise.
Though it is hoped that with the appointment of Rajnath Singh as the Bharatiya Janata Party president, the party will close ranks for the time being, what’s apparent is that that the BJP is in turmoil over who will lead its 2014 election campaign. Every week brings a new rebellion led by a new rebel. Bringing back former Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje to head the party in the state was the right move, but will this stop interference from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh?
Looking at the possible alliance patterns after votes in the 2014 general elections have been counted, three scenarios emerge.
I predict that the Congress will get 140 seats, the BJP 130 seats and the regional parties 270 seats. This last block of seats is likely to be split into three major groups led by Mulayam Singh Yadav, J. Jayalalithaa and the third one by Nitish Kumar, Mamata Banerjee, Mayawati and Jagan Mohan Reddy.
Mulayam Singh Yadav will lead what I call Group 1, which is likely to back the Congress. There is talk of Mr Singh losing ground in Uttar Pradesh on the law and order front, but the loss will be marginal and he could well win 25-30 seats. The Left will do well in Bengal, Kerala and Tripura and could end up with 30 seats. Group 1 can expand to 60-70 seats with smaller parties. I know very few people who understand politics better than Mr Singh.
Ms Jayalalithaa and her All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam will lead Group 2, but she has to consolidate her position in Tamil Nadu. Currently, the AIADMK has nine Lok Sabha seats and if Ms Jayalalithaa wants to be a game-changer in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, she will have to take a phenomenal leap and try to bag 25-30 seats on her own. The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam will have the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam as an ally. In DMK-DMDK tussle to arrive at a seat-sharing agreement, the number of seats allotted to the Congress will be very few. Though in the present scenario, the AIADMK has an upper hand. The Biju Janata Dal that currently has 14 seats will improve its tally in 2014 and will support this group. A strong regional party from Maharashtra is likely to join this group. So in theory, this group would have close to 60-70 seats.
Mr Kumar in Bihar, Ms Banerjee in West Bengal and Jagan Mohan Reddy in Andhra Pradesh have sizeable minority votes. Bihar has 40 Lok Sabha seats and the Janata Dal (United) needs more than 20 seats to be relevant. It may well contest all 40 seats on its own and will also make its presence felt in Jharkhand where the field is wide open for alliances.
Ms Banerjee has limited choice after her feud with the Congress, first over FDI in retail and then on the hike in railway fare. If her vote base erodes in favour of the Left she may openly ally with the BJP. As she comes closer to the BJP, the chances of the minority vote slipping back to the Left and the Congress cannot be ruled out. In Andhra Pradesh, the YSR Congress will do well in both Rayalseema and the coastal areas. According to media reports, the YSR Congress already has an alliance in place with the Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM).
We have a year to go for elections and much can happen as both the Congress and the BJP get active and the regional parties fight for space. We can all put the cart before the horse but the situation, as I see, is very fluid and everyone is keeping their options open for the future. Any major movement will only be visible if any clear trends emerge and this is not likely as most of the crucial Assembly elections are at end of 2013.

A few days ago we had the terrible news that a South Korean woman was drugged and raped in Madhya Pradesh. On February 7, there were reports that a Chinese woman in Delhi’s Hauz Khas area was raped. The media is full of incidents of sexual violence against women in different forms from all over the country. We have fast-track courts but like a 100-metre sprint we want justice to be delivered within a week or 10 days.
We need tougher laws in place to deal with this menace. However, as emotions subside it is time to think of the disease which has existed for centuries as it cannot be cured by a punitive system alone. Also, we need a fast-track system to review decisions that may have gone wrong.

The writer is a former Union minister

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