After the poll results, expect realignments

Oct.21 : The results of the Assembly elections in Maharashtra, Haryana and Arunachal Pradesh will throw up few surprises and the Congress should win in all the three states with comfortable margins. The results are out on Thursday.

There will be trends for the future in each state. In Maharashtra, the question is whether the Congress will gain in total numbers over the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) where Sharad Pawar — now in his seventies — has to unfold his succession plans for the future. Will the NCP cadres have full faith and confidence in his nephew Ajit Pawar for the future?

We may well see a migration towards the Congress in the immediate future. Mr Sharad Pawar has very limited options, both at the Centre and in Maharashtra, since the NCP’s strength is "weak" at the Centre.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) continues its weak run. It has not been able to produce a leader who can match the charismatic Pramod Mahajan.

The Shiv Sena under Uddhav Thackeray poses a formidable challenge and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena with Raj Thackeray looks jaded except for limited areas in Konkan and Mumbai. Maharashtra has 48 Lok Sabha seats and is critical for the future. Despite the anti-incumbency factor, the Congress has the upper hand.

In Haryana, chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda will gain and consolidate his base within the party with a 40 per cent vote share. The balance 60 per cent will be divided between the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), the BJP, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Bhajan Lal and sons.

Individually they do not offer any credible opposition and a poor performance in the Assembly elections will force all four to consider forging an alliance for the future.

The BSP, under pressure in Uttar Pradesh, will achieve very little unless Mayawati accepts the reality and "aligns" with local units that can add to her vote bank. This can vary from five to 12 per cent in North India and has the ability to change the entire political structure.

The 2009 Lok Sabha elections have decimated the Left and, in 2011, it will lose its political space both in West Bengal and Kerala. The Left’s ideology is shrinking by the day. The BJP is no longer considered an "alternative" and the National Democratic Alliance has no political value.

We are looking at a realignment of political forces as political workers and the voting public will not waste their energy on a political party or group which is unable to inspire confidence to be part of a coalition structure.

The Congress will do everything to keep the political parties divided. This is legitimate political strategy. A great deal will happen on both sides in the next year as all parties prepare for the Assembly elections in 2011, which, besides West Bengal and Kerala, will also include Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

There are no vacations in politics and political accidents continue to take place. The Central Bureau of Investigation has begun investigating into the cases involving hefty bribes allegedly paid by US companies to Indian entities and ministries. The probe by the CBI is based on a letter said to have been written by Indian envoy to the US Meera Shankar who named several departments involved in accepting bribes.

The CBI will no doubt be assisted by the media and the hunt to get the details of corrupt bureaucrats is on. This can prove to be a major embarrassment for the government. The media exposures will be relentless. It is time for the CBI to take instant action to avoid political damage.

The reaction from Pakistan on the 26/11 tragedy is predictable and repeated encounters in the Valley are an indicator that the rogue elements within the Pakistan Army and Inter-Services Intelligence are not in control of the government of Pakistan.

The US tries to pressure Pakistan but it is bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan. Look at the daily graph of violence and death in both these countries.

Things in Afghanistan are deteriorating and the departure of a senior diplomat who alleged that fraud and criminal acts were allowed by his superior in the election of the President will only alienate the voting public. Things will grow worse as additional forces are sent to Afghanistan.

President Karzai is not in control of the situation and additional troops and weapons will only add to the conflict.

There will be little peace in either of the two countries and whilst we wish US President Barack Obama well, it is difficult to comment on the Nobel Peace Prize (where is the peace?). But in all fairness it is not always easy to predict the thinking of the Nobel committee.

We in India can only express regret and surprise that Mahatma Gandhi (man of the century) never found favour with the Nobel Peace Prize committee.

The controversy about whether Mr Obama deserved the Nobel Peace Prize will die down. What concerns us today is the global assistance on terrorist acts emanating from Pakistan. We cannot wait for the next attack to take place by non-state actors and sleeper cells within the country.

The home minister and the security forces have done well in dealing with the situation and we have the capability of dealing with the situation in a very competent manner.

A lot of hard work has been put in and I would have little hesitation in saying that it would be churlish for anyone to treat us as a "soft" state.

Matters of internal security require political intervention but sadly the violence unleashed by the Naxalite cadres on security forces and innocent villagers reduces the options available to the government. Hopefully better counsel will prevail before the situation gets out of control.

Governance in Jammu and Kashmir is never easy and both Mufti Muhammad Sayeed and Ghulam Nabi Azad did well under the circumstances, as Farooq Abdullah had done earlier.

Now the torch passes on to Omar Abdullah of the National Conference and Mehbooba Mufti, who has kept the People’s Democratic Party cadres intact. Good, effective leadership on both sides bodes well for the future.

Farooq Abdullah can be quite emotional on occasions but he, more than anyone else, knows the contradictions within the Pakistan Army and the ISI. Unless action is taken on 26/11, it would be impossible for any progress to take place. There will be constant pressure on both Omar Abdullah and Ms Mufti in the Valley and we must wish them well for the future. Things will not be easy as few can predict with any certainty the turn of events in Pakistan.

Arun Nehru is a former Union minister

Arun Nehru

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