Shop of Friendships

The Congress Party has got a new friend and this is no ordinary friend. It is the same party which single-handedly blocked her coronation in 1999 when the Vajpaye government had fallen and Sonia Gandhi was all set to become the Prime Minister of the country. Mulayam Singh Yadav was the man behind this..

In 2003, when the BJP-BSP government had fallen in UP, it was the Congress that gave Mulayam outside support and this was the beginning of a troubled relationship that paved way for a historic friendship for a ‘national cause’. This time, the same Amar Singh, who had been called a ‘gate crasher’ at 10, Janpath, was personally welcomed there and over lunch, a historic alliance was sealed.

But it still must be questioned as to how long this friendship is going to last. It must be noted that Mulayam Singh Yadav was among those breed of politicians who began their careers against the Congress on a socialist platform. Later on, he never formed a government with the party and even refused to support Sonia as PM. When he was the Chief Minister, he found a troublemaker in T.V. Rajeswar, a Congress appointee governor who challenged him on many issues. Even while in power or away from it, there was always this allegation of him being soft to the BJP – regular contact between the two parties is no secret with even Advani acknowledging it in his book. Furthermore, Mulayam has always had a special affinity for the Left which has stood by him on many occasions be it the constant attempts to dismiss his government or as allies on various issues. Hence, in this backdrop, it becomes difficult to explain why the SP and the Congress have this new love for each other. The answer, obviously, is Mayawati but so much happening in such little time, especially considering the rivalry between the two parties, that it has been a source of much amusement for most pundits. A possible scenario could be a SP-INC-RLD alliance which could easily capture 35 seats. What this has also done is brought Mayawati closer to the BJP and the signals are coming from both sides. While one can be sure that the alliance will not be pre-poll, the likelihood of a BSP supported NDA government is being seriously thought about by many observers.

This alliance has led to many conclusions. For one, the scope and viability for a Third Front in Indian politics has formally ended, at least for the time being. In 2009, the elections are only going to be a two party affair and the UNPA for all practical purposes is over. The SP may have gone to the Congress but the other parties cannot take the same route as they face the Congress directly in their respective states. It is difficult to imagine the TDP, INLD and AGP supporting the Congress when they face the Congress Party in their respective states. The SP has another enemy back in Uttar Pradesh. There is also a chance that these very parties may now join the NDA, which has already started building its base for alliances in the states. Recent elections in Assam have shown the might of the AGP and BJP if they combine. The INLD may also follow but it is a million dollar question whether the TDP will follow suit. It is now busy enhancing its socialist and secular credentials. Things have never been so bad for the Left as they are now. They are now no more in a commanding position on policy matters and add to this, the defeat in West Bengal’s local body polls and a strong anti-incumbency in Kerala. It may now be confined to the backbenches of the Lok Sabha and this is not a good thing.

Clearly, Indian politics continues to be a two-alliance affair with a limited role for the Left. The theatrics will get only better as the time for elections nears and new developments unfold. Till then enjoy the circus…

Yash Gandhi

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