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Delhi heats up with alliances and poll pangs

A Correspondent in Delhi | January 20, 2009 17:46 IST

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Even before a clear picture of the alliances emerges for the April-May Lok Sabha elections, the political scene is hotting up with the parties going through poll pangs and problem of poaching that may accelerate in the days to come.\

Both the Congress and the Bhartiya Janata Party have already appointed their pointsmen to firm up seat sharing and muster more alliances. Pranab Mukherjee [Images], Digvijay Singh and Ahmed Patel are holding talks with allies on behalf of the Congress while the BJP is working through M Venkaiah Naidu, Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj.

The BJP seems to have failed in its attempt to stop the poaching of former Uttar Pradesh [Images] Chief Minister Kalyan Singh by the Samajwadi Party. However, L K Advani [Images] had practically written off Kalyan Singh from the party's calculations in Uttar Pradesh.

SP chief Mulayam Singh Yaday's gameplan is not only to weaken BJP in Uttar Pradesh, which sends 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha, but also weaken Advani's prospects of becoming the prime minister by using Kalyan Singh to spoil the BJP's chances in the critical state.

While it is mostly the national parties that indulge in poaching of popular leaders of the regional parties, the trend seems to be going the other way this time.

Mulayam is overseeing strategies to create trouble for the BJP while his lieutenant and party general secretary Amar Singh [Images] is busy mobilising the ginger group of Lalu Prasad, Ram Vilas Paswan and Sharad Pawar [Images] to put the Congress on its toes and force it to agree to a good deal for the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh.

Lalu is quite unhappy with imposition of President's Rule in Jharkhand. His persuasion, however, worked and he managed to keep the assembly under suspended animation instead of dissolving it. He wants a popular government installed at the earliest since that could help in the many cases pending against him in Ranchi.

Back at home in Bihar, Lalu Prasad is trying to rope in two or three senior Congress leaders to weaken the party's bargain power for sharing seats in the state. His prime worry, however, is over the popularity that Nitish Kumar has gained as chief minister.

Nitish Kumar is troubling not only the opposition but even his ally the BJP. Many state BJP leader keep coming to Delhi [Images] to express fears that the party will get completely marginalised in the state.

While Nitish wants to cut down the number of seats the BJP is asking from Bihar, his Orissa counterpart Naveen Patnaik has also told the BJP leadership that he wants maximum seats for his Biju Janata Dal. Patnaik has even given a veiled threat of parting company from the National Democratic Alliance if the BJP does not yield.

Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Bannerjee has been written off by the BJP but she may also not get an entry into the Congress-led UPA. Pranab Mukherjee wants the party to keep away from Mamata as that may help in any fresh tie-up with the Left parties after the polls.

The Left parties are living in their own dream world to get a third front into power at the Centre. Their strategic tie-up with AIADMK chief J Jayalalitha has already scored over both BJP and Congress leaders who were trying to woo her.

At the same time, the Left parties are still open to a deal with Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati [Images] as she has the vote bank not only in her state but also in many other states that can help the third front bag some seats.

The Pattali Makkal Katchi and some other Tamil allies of the UPA are quite unhappy with the Centre not intervening to help out the Tamils in Sri Lanka [Images] and as such there should be no surprise over their shift to Jayalalitha.

In Karnataka, the internal squabbles have begun in the ruling BJP with three MPs raising a banner of revolt against Chief Minister Yeddyurappa. This may spoil the BJP's hope of winning many seats there. In another development, former Congress chief minister S Bangarappa, who got elected second time on Samajwadi Party ticket, has crossed over to the Congress.

In other states, the Congress is trying to woo back those who have left the party or become disgruntled as their formation of new regional outfits can eat into its vote bank.

The biggest worry for the Congress this time is Andhra Pradesh, which will be having assembly elections along with the Lok Sabha polls. The Satyam [Get Quote] controversy is already dogging the party that is in power in the state and its problem has become more serious with the main opposition Telugu Desam Party joining hands with the Telengana Rashtra Samithi on the issue of creation of Telangana state.

Though the Congress has not opened its cards on how it will neutralise the Telengana issue that may cost it many seats in both the Lok Sabha and the assembly, but insiders say Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy has succeeded in convincing the central leadership of the party to sidestep the issue of Telengana.

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