Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The UPA in great trouble - allies speaking against other

In the last election, the NDA was the dominant party, and with the 'India Shining' campaign, it seemed that nothing could stop the BJP led front from coming to power. However, the people of India had different ideas, and did not give the BJP the required number of seats so that the BJP could come to power as a part of the NDA. It was the Congress that had a larger number of seats; it was at that time that the Congress, probably for the first time in its long existence, developed the ability to form coalitions. The Congress looked far and wide, and allied itself with a number of parties that would have earlier opposed the Congress (with some of the alliances being before the election, and some after the election). So the Congress allied itself with people as varied as Sharad Pawar's NCP, the Bihar parties of Laloo Prasad Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan, DMK, PMK, and a few other smaller parties. More importantly, the Left parties, who are sworn allies of the Congress in Kerala and West Bengal were also induced to be supporting parties due to prevent the coming to power of the BJP.
Most of these alliances existed almost till the end of the Congress term, with remaining in power being a great inducement for all involved. However, these stable alliances now seem totally in disarray as we are now in the midst of polls. Take a sample of what one of the most trusted allies, Laloo Prasad Yadav says (link to article):

The Railway Minister, who all along has maintained that Manmohan Singh was the UPA candidate, on Tuesday sang a different tune against the backdrop of his party RJD and the Congress going their own ways to fight the elections in Bihar. "UPA is a confederation of secular parties and does not belong only to the Congress. We will sit together (after the elections are over) to chalk out a common minimum programme and in consultation with all our partners select a leader who will be the prime minister," Prasad told reporters in Patna.
Asked about the strained relations between the RJD-LJP alliance in Bihar and the Congress, Prasad said, "These things are natural during elections. Do you expect us to worship each other. There is a famine of candidates in the Congress, which is busy rebuilding and reviving its organisation. But despite the presence of Congress candidates in the fray in large numbers against nominees of secular parties the NDA will be wiped out," he said.

In addition, everybody knows how the Left is already in open opposition to the Congress, and has been so ever since Manmohan Singh made his effort to push for the India-US nuclear deal. The UPA has also other constituents such as the PMK, and has managed to make enmity with both Mayawati and Mulayam Singh.
Part of the reason for this strain in relations, especially in the Hindi heartland states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, is the need for Congress to remake itself in these states. It was in the 1989 election that the Congress downfall in these key states became apparent, to the extent that the Congress is almost non-existent in these states. It is the dream of Congress strategy makers to make the Congress more powerful in these states again, and the only way they can do that is to regain the support of many caste groups that were with them, and are now with these parties. It is also for the same reason that the caste groups are fine with allying with the Congress as long as the Congress plays second fiddle, and gains ground in other states.
The irony of the disintegration of the UPA as a pre-election alliance is that it was the BJP that has been suffering the jolts earlier. They were deserted by Chandrababu Naidu earlier, and on the eve of this election, it was the close partner, Naveen Patnaik of the Biju Janta Dal who deserted the BJP (and it was the Congress which was being gleeful when all this happened).
However, does something really change ? If the elections throw up a hung parliament, one can be sure that these parties will come together, as the need to throw up a 'secular' alternative to the BJP will still remain as a glue to make sure that they retain their power.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 2:11 AM