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February 28, 1998


The Rediff Election Special/ Arun Nehru

Is there any such thing as a hung Parliament?

The reality is that whether it is Bihar, Uttar Pradesh or Maharashtra, no party has the advantage. Events in Uttar Pradesh will repeat themselves at the Centre and the BJP hardliners should realise that their morality and sense of selective excesses are not acceptable to the vast majority, and that you cannot rule a large nation by fear or force.

Atal Bihari is a good man -- he cannot be accused of petty acts -- but has the BJP not violated every principle on which it accuses the Congress and the others? How many criminals are contesting under the BJP banner in Uttar Pradesh? Are we witnessing political wars in Uttar Pradesh or Bihar, or is simply a shoot-out between the mafia dons? I really do not know how this will affect the polls today as, despite the crocodile tears and hunger strikes, there are few heroes.

Today's chart indicates that a majority is lacking but then is there any such thing as a hung Parliament? The issue before us simply is if coalition politics and the principles associated with collective governance will triumph over small men with very big ambition.

There are few things done without oral, ethical and national reasons, What a example in intellectual dishonesty we witness with I K Gujral who, belonging to the Janata Dal, seeks Akali Dal and BJP support, attacking the Congress and promising to send Sonia Gandhi to Italy. He maintains silence on the BJP till the Jalandhar elections are over and then attacks them in Karnataka!

Sadly the nation is witness to a humiliating situation as a prime minister tours and addresses meetings without party workers and gets pitiful public response. The relevant issue is not I K Gujral, who is already forgotten, but the fact that weak, ineffective and mediocre leaders or, rather, a succession of them, have called the entire system into ridicule.

Election rhetoric is perhaps understandable and the issue is to win at any cost. The counting starts on Monday, March 2, and depending on numbers each party will sing a different tune. The BJP and its allies will put forward their claim whilst the Congress, the Left and the regional parties will once again perceive the "historical necessity" to save India from the BJP!

Every party has attacked criminality but there are more hardcore criminals fighting today, and perhaps the BJP will win the prize for the "godfather" syndrome -- all this is, of course, to counter Laloo Yadav in Bihar and Mulayam Singh and Mayawati in Uttar Pradesh.

The electoral battle in the north (UP and Bihar) is between mafia dons and little to do with political parties. There will be total chaos. No leader can control criminals if he accepts their assistance for electoral purposes.

The charts are self-explanatory. I see the Congress gaining in Andhra Pradesh along with the BJP and the TDP clearly going on the defensive. The TDP decline, if it takes place, will revive the NTR family wars and Chandrababu Naidu may not remain the supreme leader.

The party will split on the issue of support to the Congress or the BJP when the number game begins. Assam and the ruling AGP faces very stormy weather as the Congress gains and the BJP looks ahead to another seat or so. The governor may have done his duty, but Mahanta is on the decline.

The insurgency situation is very serious and the chief minister and the AGP have shown a very poor record in tackling this growing problem of internal security on our borders.

The Arunachal situation will depend on the government at the Centre and Gegong Apang will go with the winner.

In Delhi, I still expect the BJP winning the maximum, though New Delhi, south Delhi and Chandni Chowk have witnessed keen fights, and the margins will be close. The clear-cut winners seem to be in east, outer, Sadar and Karol Bagh.

Laloo Yadav is under severe pressure in Bihar. The BJP-Samta combine gains on him and he gets weaker every day. There is great violence and loss of life in Bihar. Large losses will make the state government even weaker and the Laloo-Rabri dynasty may go into extinction. If Laloo wins 10 to 15 seats in Bihar, and if the Congress and allies form the government, the man could well be very important at the Centre.

The Samata Party seems to be making great inroads, and Nitish Kumar could well head the Bihar government in the future. George Fernandes, Digvijay Singh, Krishna Sahi, all seem to be well-placed whilst Sharad Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan are under pressure.

Ram Vilas apparently is following the 'Gujral doctrine', taking help from rivals to tackle Laloo Yadav. He may survive. The Gujarat situation favours the BJP which continues to grow and which can make additional gains. The state may well go to the BJP again, despite the fact that a two-thirds majority was whittled away.

Maharashtra presents a very different picture and, as things stand, the Congress, is gaining every day. The Shiv Sena is under severe pressure and in Bombay city, the Congress-Samajwadi-RPI team is a serious contender in four out of six seats.

Haryana is a rout for the HVP-BJP combine as the Congress and the 'Tau' dynasty battle for honours.

Punjab shows the Akalis under pressure and the Congress having a winning chance in Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Patiala and Phillaur.

In Himachal Pradesh the Congress is under pressure whilst the BJP gains but the margins are steep.

Rajasthan swings towards the Congress and it may win the majority of the seats.

Madhya Pradesh seems to be firmly in BJP control and many a stalwart fights for survival.

The southern states show little change with the TMC-DMK combine ahead but under challenge from Jayalalitha who may do the impossible as the gap narrows.

Kerala may tilt away from the Left whilst, in Karnataka, Deve Gowda and the Janata Dal may could well disappear with the BJP-Lok Shakti combine scoring over the Congress.

The east has West Bengal under Left control with the Congress and Mamata dividing the remainder of the votes. In Orissa, J B Patnaik may lose a little!

Events will overtake decisions but do look at both the combines and see the diverse interests and the conflicting ambitions therein. Political decisions are taken devoid of emotion and political numbers determine political strength and relative stability.

I see Atal Bihari forming the government going by current numbers, but the longevity of the combination will depend on his capacity to control uncontrollable elements. The Congress-UF combination may have the numbers but cannot see beyond their nose, and petty squabbles camouflaged in ideological jargon only results in self-deception.

The Uttar Pradesh syndrome can repeat itself at the Centre but, either way, I don't think this government will last.

We have reached the bottom of the pit. Who will gain by all this I do not know, but neither the BJP formation or the combined confusion of the Congress and UF will survive, as everyone scampers for power.

The ballot box is being replaced by the gun and the knife -- look at Uttar Pradesh for the past six months and see if you can find any innocents?

This week's forecast
StateSeats BJPAlliesCongress RegionalOthers
422 _2712 (TDP) 1 MIM
Assam131 _73 (AGP) 2
2_ __2 (Ar Cong) _
Bihar5425 13 (Samata)3

13 (RJD + allies)

Delhi76 _1__
Goa2_ _11_
Gujarat2620 _6_ _
Haryana101 2 (HVP)34 (BSP + HLD) _
41 _3_ _
J&K61 _14 (NC) _
Karnataka2810 4 (LK)102 (JD) BJP-LK
Kerala20_ _13 (Cong, allies)7 (LDF) _
MP4029 _10_1 BSP
Maharashtra4815 10 (SS)23_ _
Manipur2_ _1_ 1
Mizoram1_ _1_ _
Nagaland1_ _1_ _
Meghalaya2_ _2_ _
Punjab132 7 (AD)31 (JD) _
Orissa213 2 (BJD)16_ _
Rajasthan2511 _14_ _
Sikkim1_ ___ 1
Tamil Nadu391 10 (AIADMK)_28 (DMK-TMC) _
Tripura2_ __2 (Left) _
UP8560 2613 (Samajwadi) BSP (4) _
West Bengal42_ _636 (LF) _
Union Try63 _21 (DMK-TMC) _
Total542 19249160+17 11113

BJP and allies: 192+ 49 = 241

Congress and allies: 177

United Front = 111

Others (Haryana Lok Dal: 4, BSP: 4, Others: 5) = 13


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