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Daily Take: Careful! Another balancing act to follow
May 06, 2004 04:59 IST
Last Updated: May 06, 2004 05:02 IST
Different politicians may quibble with the findings of one or the other exit poll in different states, but overall the polls seem to agree on one point: the ruling National Democratic Alliance is likely to return to power with a very slender majority, if not fall just short of the half-way mark.
With just one phase of polling left, and three days of campaigning, it is going to be very hard for the ruling front to turn the trend around.
The final phase is admittedly the largest, covering 182 Lok Sabha constituencies. But the NDA faces an uphill task simply because it is either not placed well in the states going to the polls, or placed so well that there seems to be scope only for sliding.
Not that the NDA will mind returning to power with a slender majority. Prime Minister A B Vajpayee has shown a remarkable dexterity in managing his support in Parliament, and there is no reason why he — or his likely successor, Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani — will not be able to continue this performance, tougher though it is likely to be this time.
Besides, the BJP counts in its ranks such master coalition-builders as Pramod Mahajan and Kalyan Singh. Mahajan has already said that the BJP could take help from smaller parties in case it falls short in the fourteenth Lok Sabha.
But managing survival could be one thing and governing the country entirely another, as P V Narasimha Rao learnt in the latter half of his term as prime minister.
The good thing with the NDA getting another shot at forming the government, however, is that it will at least survive. Any other grouping will most probably not survive and, as a result, definitely not govern.
If the NDA falls marginally short of the magic figure, the only alternative is for all other groups to form a coalition and take power.
But the egos involved are so large that they cannot be contained in one coalition. Can you imagine Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati in the same town, let alone the same government?
They are not the only ones, of course. There are the Congress and the Left, too.
Both claim to be working to form an alternative government. The Leftists even go so far as to say that they are working for a Congress-led government. But when the Congress says the same thing, they take umbrage.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi reportedly said that only her party could provide the leadership for a stable alternative government at the Centre. As the Congress is the largest party in opposition, that should stand to reason.
Not for veteran Marxist Jyoti Basu, though. The man who only a couple of days ago said he saw no alternative to a Congress-led government shot back: "She spoke nonsense. I could not make out what she sought to convey."
Basu's theme: "No secular government can be formed at the Cente without the support of the Leftists."
Now you try and make out what he is seeking to convey.
Turnout in the third phase of polling was also average, in keeping with the trend set in the first two phases.
But an interesting contrast was seen in two states affected by secessionist terrorism — Nagaland and Jammu and Kashmir.
Both states have suffered through long-running foreign-backed secessionist movements. But since 1997 a serious peace process has been underway in Nagaland, with the government and the secessionists engaged in talks to find a way out.
The solution is yet to be found, arms are yet to be officially laid down, but peace has reigned in the state by and large over the last six years.
One dividend of this peace: as many as 80 per cent of Nagaland's voters turned out to cast their ballots.
Even accounting for the fact that voter turnout in the Northeastern states is usually high, it is a remarkable figure. What makes it more remarkable is that Arunachal Pradesh, another state that usually records high voter turnout, had only 37 per cent coming to the booths this time.
But in Jammu and Kashmir, where the Anantnag constituency went to the polls, barely 16 per cent of the voters turned out. This figure is higher than the turnout in 1999, which was just 14.32 per cent, but that's small consolation.
Considering that turnout in the first phase in Jammu and Baramulla was 45 per cent, after which the terrorists stepped up their attacks on political parties, rallies and leaders, the reason for the falling turnout isn't hard to guess.
Unless the terrorists are silenced, whether by love or force, the average Kashmiri is unlikely to regain his voice.
Love him or hate him, you can't fail to be amused by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's turn of phrase.
Addressing election rallies in Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal, Modi, in his own style, said the current election is a contest between tikaau maal (durable commodities) and bikaau maal (saleable commodities).
No prizes for guessing which is the tikaau maal and which the bikaau.
Modi warned that "the sectarian Congress party and all the power-hungry parties supporting it are going to leave no stone unturned in dividing the country".
That's the same charge opposition parties have been making against the NDA, of being a power-hungry, opportunistic alliance.
Ironically, the last politician to spurn the chance of coming to power was the much-maligned Rajiv Gandhi, who turned down a presidential invitation to form the government after emerging as the single largest party in the ninth Lok Sabha 15 years ago.
Now, of course, we have politicians who never 'aspire' for positions, but will do a job if the 'people' so decree.
Just a day before the polling in Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena had run an SMS campaign: Say Vande Mataram, not Vande MataRome. Vote Shiv Sena-BJP alliance.
So as soon as the polling was over, and politicking in Maharashtra got a break, what do you think Sena working president Uddhav Thackeray did?
He took off on a well-deserved holiday to, well, Rome.
Daily Take: Against the popular will