To which song will UP play musical chairs?

After the peaceful second phase of polling in Uttar Pradesh, and as we near the climax of the election campaign, I see the Samajwadi Party (SP) sprinting ahead and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) losing ground. However, the BSP is still way ahead of the Congress, with the BJP trailing as a distant fourth.
I do not know whether the Batla House encounter controversy and the Muslim quota issue raised by Salman Khurshid will have any impact on the poll trends, but I don’t think the Congress will jeopardise its upper caste votes for minority gains. The Congress and the BJP dominate the upper caste votes and even a slight shift can cause a major upset.

Mulayam Singh Yadav’s SP looks set to cross the 150-seat mark, while the BSP could go down to 100-110 seats (the SP currently has 97 seats, and the BSP has 206 seats). This lead may increase in the final stretch for the SP as floating votes often consolidate behind the winner.
Looking at this tally, we may be heading towards a situation where an alliance between the SP and the Congress may not be necessary. If the SP does get 150-plus seats, getting another 50 will not be an issue (the magic number in the 403-member Uttar Pradesh Assembly is 202).
Though the chances of a formal alliance seem remote, there will in all likelihood be an “understanding” between the Congress and the SP as both parties need political insurance at the Centre and in the state. In the frenzied UP poll coverage, with its superstar politicians and glittering stars, the Goa elections have almost been forgotten, with few even bothering to predict voting trends for the 40-seat House.
In the candidates put up by the Congress, the Nationalist Congress Party, the BJP and the regional parties, there’s an interesting mix of real estate and mining interests. It’ll be a fascinating political drama when these lobbies play the game of “musical chairs” on March 6, when the counting of votes begins.

The 2G octopus has resurfaced and is spreading its tentacles in all directions.
After the Supreme Court cancelled 122 licences for mobile networks issued during A. Raja’s tenure as communications minister and asked telecom regulator Trai to make fresh recommendations on the allotment of licences through auction within four months, the CBI has registered a case of criminal conspiracy and corruption against former communications minister and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) party leader Dayanidhi Maran and his brother, Sun TV promoter Kalanithi Maran, for alleged improprieties in the Aircel-Maxis deal.
Ralph Marshall, deputy chairman of Astro All Asia Networks and director of Malaysia-based Maxis Communications, and T. Ananda Krishnan, chairman of Usaha Tegas in Malaysia, have also been charged with corruption and conspiracy.
The Enforcement Directorate’s notices to the Maran brothers could further strain ties between the Congress and the DMK. But all political action will be on hold till March 6.
Change has a habit of creeping up on us. While some get a sense of things to come, most live in denial and are often shocked as inevitable events begin to unfold.
Look at the hundreds of cases where justice was delivered because someone somewhere — armed with a TV camera and loads of courage — challenged authority and changed the lives of those who were denied justice. Jessica Lal, Nitish Katara and Priyadarshini Mattoo come to mind.
Though not in the same league, the sacking of the three Karnataka ministers who were caught watching porn on their smartphones speaks of the power of the electronic media.
Similarly, instant images from the Maldives possibly saved the life of former President Mohamed Nasheed and many members of his party. Mr Nasheed, who says he was deposed in a coup at gunpoint, was a freedom fighter against the 30-year regime of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
With the world witnessing the “coup” live on television, it’s very possible that 24x7 media coverage saved his life. But Mr Nasheed, who has spent six years in jail and 18 months in solitary confinement, will not retreat in a hurry.
Though India, the US and the UK have reacted to the situation in the Maldives, Mr Nasheed has said that that he is disappointed with India.
While India cannot, and will not, interfere in the internal affairs of the Maldives, can the US, the UK and the global community be mute spectators and allow vested interests to take over the political system of a country?
There are over 1,000 islands in the Maldives and maintaining peace and security is a challenge. The political situation in the Maldives is complicated and India must proceed with utmost caution. It should join hands with global powers that have faith in democracy and are willing to take steps to limit extreme Islamic elements.

The writer is a former Union minister

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