With relationships souring between the United Progressive Alliance and its ally Samajwadi Party, and after the fallout with the Dravida Munetra Kazhagam, the Congress may be looking up to team up with Janata Dal-United, and the latter may not be averse to it, says Renu Mittal
Relations between the Congress and the Samajwadi Party are deteriorating, and deteriorating fast. While Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has said he would like the general elections to be held by October, his father Mulayam Singh Yadav has called the Congress-led government at the Centre weak and corrupt and has praised senior Bharatiya Janata Party leaders Atal Behari Vajpayee and Lal Krishna Advani.
The SP is offering outside support to the UPA government, and after the pull out by the DMK, its support has become crucial for the Congress to keep its government afloat with a year to go for the current term.
The Congress has retaliated in equal measure. Party spokesman Rashid Alvi has said the SP appears to have had a memory lapse and has forgotten the demolition of the Babri Masjid by the BJP leaders as well as the Gujarat riots where a large number of innocent Muslims lost their lives.
The SP’s electoral base is primarily Muslims along with the Yadavs, and Mulayam praising BJP leaders appears to be an interesting development.
Explaining Mulayam’s praise, a senior Congress leader said that the SP chief will never go with the BJP, as it will hurt his Muslim vote bank, but added that maybe he feels the BJP is coming to power and wants to stay on their right side even though he may never be a part of the National Democratic Alliance.
Along with this, the Congress has hinted that it is more than prepared to face the elections and said the government would bring the Women’s Reservation Bill in the second half of the budget session.
Alvi said along with this other important legislations such as the Food Security Bill, the Land Acquisition Bill, the Lokpal Bill and other measures for the protection of women would be brought by this government. It almost read like a manifesto for the coming elections with the government keen to woo the people with a host of key legislations which are already in the pipeline.
The SP, along with other caste-based parties is bitterly opposed to the Women’s Reservation Bill demanding sub-quota for the SCs, STs, Other Backward Classes and minorities. The Congress knows this will annoy the SP even more, but after a substantial gap, the party has again focused on the bill.
Interestingly, the Congress has praised the Janata Dal-United, and said that even though the party has been with the NDA and with the BJP for some time, they continue to be secular and cannot be called ‘communal’ in any way. This is likely to alert a large number of political parties in Bihar and may get Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad Yadav’s backing, who is trying for an alliance with the Congress in the state.
A senior Congress leader from Bihar has said there is a strong possibility that Chief Minister Nitish Kumar may come with the Congress as part of a pre-poll alliance. Sources say that the Congress is not taken aback by Mulayam’s posturing as they expect him to play the hard ball after the DMK’s exit.
But Congress leaders say that the JD-U could well come to the Congress aid in the event that Mulayam Singh pulls the plug.
According to senior leaders, Nitish has put two conditions before the BJP: announce who the prime ministerial candidate will be, as was done in the case of Vajpayee, or keep the issue open, but announce that it will not be Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
Sources say that the BJP cannot do the latter as no political party will announce a non-candidate. The JD-U wants the BJP to give a categorical assurance that after the elections, if the numbers add up, Modi will not be the prime minister.
Nitish has told his close circle that he would have no qualms about dumping the BJP and going with the Congress, as such a categorical assurance is not forthcoming.
With political parties going into election mode and a general atmosphere of uncertainty clouding the central government, senior ministers say it is still unlikely that their government can be toppled.
The government may decide to choose its own timing to go to the polls depending on various political calculations and that would give them an advantage if the government has been successful in bringing various legislations, which helps the aam admi.
Along with this the Congress would also be able to firm up its various alliances in the run up to the polls, and Bihar is likely to be crucial in terms of alliances in this round of the elections.
Image: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar