Thursday, May 07, 2009

Congress and its alliance partners

National parties have always had problems with the concept of partners in different states, since the concept of having a partner who is strong in a state is that the national party has to play second fiddle in the specific state. The BJP faces this to some extent in Punjab (where the Akali Dal believes that it is the stronger party), in Bihar (where the JD(U) is the stronger party), in Maharashtra (where the playing second fiddle to the Shiv Sena is something that the party does not really like), in Orissa (where the senior member, Naveen Patnaik's BJD moved away suddenly); however, the BJP has less scope for such problems in the southern states where it needs to expand since it does not have much of a base in Andhra, Tamil Nadu, or Kerala. Similarly, states such as West Bengal are out of its reach for some time.
However, the Congress is running into far more problems with respect to its alliance, especially as it publicly (and in full media awareness) pitches for more allies post-results. For 5 years, the Congress lived with alliance partners without much problems except for the Left (whose morals always caused them to have problems with the policies of the Left). However, as it approached the election, it started shedding allies, until it is primarily right now left with just a few - Mamta Banerjee in West Bengal, the DMK in Tamil Nadu and IUML in Kerala.
In other states, the basic problem is with having to search for allies who are either in competition with the Congress, or are in competition with the current allies of the Congress. So, for example when Rahul Gandhi suggested that the Congress is open to new allies, he was scouting for support from the left, from Nitish Kumar's JD(U), from the AIADMK, from Naveen Patnaik's BJD, he immediately ran into trouble. The Congress is allied with Mamta Banerjee in West Bengal, and in both Kerala and Bengal, the Congress is pitted in a battle with the Communist Parties. Mamta did not appreciate the comments by Rahul inviting support from the Left, and neither will the DMK about any potential support from Jayalalitha. Similarly, Lalu Prasad Yadav will certainly not be happy about any overtures to Nitish Kumar.
In states such as Orissa, the Congress is in bitter competition with the BJD, and similarly with the TDP in Andhra Pradesh. It will difficult for it to accept support from these parties, since the state units of the Congress will find it difficult to support these changed circumstances, but they will not have an option if the Congress needs support for the Central Government. And a number of such parties will provide support since they will also get their pound of flesh from the Government formation. The next few weeks will be interesting to watch, people will truly understand the meaning of the phrase, 'nothing is impossible'.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 10:49 AM