The time has come,’ the Walrus said, To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —
Of cabbages — and kings.
– Lewis Carroll
As the day of reckoning approaches, political parties across the board are busy doing their own arithmetic keeping in view the possibility of a hung parliament. Several regional satraps are hoping for a repeat of the 1996 Lok Sabha Elections. While many of these players have kept the door open for a post-poll tie up, the parties that had chosen not to align with either the BJP or the Congress in 2019 elections are the ones making lot of noise. In actual fact, these are the parties one has to watch out for after May 23.
King or Kingmaker?
Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Odisha, Mamata-led Trinamool Congress (TMC) in West Bengal, KCR’s Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) in Telangana, YSRCP led by Jagan in Andhra, and the Mahagathbandhan in Uttar Pradesh made up of Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP), Samajwadi Party (SP), and the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) have emerged as the kingmakers.
Several leaders from across the country – especially southern states – believe that the time has come for regional politics to be given their due. The feeling among these regional heavyweights is that 2019 will bring about a change of government and a transformation in coalition politics , in which case regional parties will even become king, not just play the role of a king maker.
Never a part of any pre-poll alliance, the presence or support of these parties will be crucial to the formation of the next government at the Center. Cooperation and collaboration will be a compulsory condition for remaining in the loop.
It is a well -known fact that Mamata, KCR, Mayawati among others even nurse Prime Ministerial ambitions. Never aspired to become PM and always satisfied with his own state, even BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik has thrown his hat in the ring. Naveen’s PM candidacy has been proffered by SN Patro – a known loyalist of Naveen Patnaik .
The feeling among these regional heavyweights is that 2019 will bring about a change of government and a transformation in coalition politics , in which case regional parties will even become king, not just play the role of a king maker.
The BJD which broke away from a 11-year alliance with the BJP in 2009, has kept his all options open in a post-poll scenario. Naveen’s argument is that “any party or coalition that supports the development just claims of Odisha will have our support.”
Even at the height of campaigning, Naveen had asserted that no national party will get a clear majority at the center in the crucial 2019 elections and regional parties will play the kingmaker role. Political observers are of the opinion that Naveen harping on the kingmaker role for regional parties is only to reinforce his position and stay relevant Vis- a- Vis national politics.
With neither BJP-led NDA nor the Congress-led UPA sure of forming the government, a fractured verdict will bring the BJD into focus. This was witnessed during cyclone Fani. There was no trace of acrimony that marked their pre-poll rhetoric. Modi and Naveen made an aerial survey together. Even, the PM was all praise for the way Naveen evacuated lakhs of people ahead of the cyclone.
The bonhomie could indicate a post-poll plan. But Naveen would still want to keep his options open. In the outgoing Lok Sabha, although Naveen’s BJD was not part of the NDA coalition, it behaved that way by supporting important legislations.
Whether the regional leaders will be able to cobble together the numbers to stake claim to form the next government will be known soon, but the real challenge will then be in ensuring that a number of heads vying for the top spot remain united.
For the BJP, the biggest challenge is from the smaller mahagathbandhan—the alliance of Mayawati’s BSP, Akhilesh’s SP and Ajit Singh’s RLD in UP. The BJP had won 71 of UP’s 80 seats in 2014, while ally Apna Dal had got two. The BSP-SP alliance alliance is seen to be in a position to cause a considerable loss of seats to the BJP. Even as Akhilesh has taken a backseat, Mayawati remains a crucial player.
On other side of the spectrum,the Congress is trying to reach out to the BSP, and the BSP too has softened the stance it had adopted since the assembly election days. So, a worried BJP has taken to reminding the electorate about the Congress track record of withdrawing support to coalition governments.
The one South party from which the Congress is assured of support is the DMK—it has already joined the UPA and its leader,MK Stalin, has endorsed Rahul Gandhi for PM. Contesting in 20 out of the 39 seats in Tamil Nadu, Stalin could, very well, play kingmaker if DMK sweeps the elections. However, if the NDA returns with a working majority, the DMK’s MPs would have little relevance.
Like Stalin, former Prime Minister and JD(S) supremo HD Deve Gowda has backed Rahul Gandhi for PM. And although the JD(S) is contesting only 10 out of the 28 seats, Deve Gowda could play a crucial role. Gowda, nonetheless, pointed out that regional parties cannot form the government without the help of the Congress.
In the event of each of these parties sweeping their respective states, the regional bloc would still be well short of the magic number of 272.And, here lies the problem.
(The writer is Consulting Editor,OdishaPlus)