Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Congress must do a pre-poll alliance with the SP…..

I prefer to write on something more important than the silly and controversial statement made by Kapil Sibal yesterday on policing the internet. Don’t know what his compulsions were, but I care very little about it. For me, what is more important is the economic progress of the country and the tragedy that political opportunism is derailing it. I wrote about the Congress aligning with the SP a few days back. I also wrote that if the Congress was forced to roll back its FDI in retail decision, it would become a government sans reason. Subsequent events have borne out the truth in what I wrote. We have heard of all FDI being put on hold. Today, the Congress is a weak government – relying on the mercy of its highly unpredictable so called “ally” Mamata Banerjee. The Congress has to take steps to regain its strength. And aligning with SP could be one such step.

Why Samajwadi Party? Let’s look at this from the point of view of SP and then the Congress.

From the SP’s point of view, all that they are interested in is running UP. They have not shown any ambitions of spreading their wings outside the state (unlike the BSP). Further, they surely realize that their main opponent (the BSP) is still in a pretty strong position in UP. One saw glimpses of Maya’s tricks when she announced her decision to divide the state into four parts. If the state elections are held as a four-way contest, the SP’s vote banks (Yadavs, Muslims largely) are going to get split between itself and the Congress (especially the Muslims). However, if the Congress and the SP unite, there is a much stronger chance that they will go past the BSP.  The BJP of course matters very little in the state.

From the Congress’s point of view, while UP is an area of focus for Rahul Gandhi, it surely realizes that its going to be extremely difficult to oust Mayawati. While Rahul Gandhi manages to attract attention to himself and his party, his party’s organization is depleted in the state. The Congress did do very well in the Lok Sabha elections in 2009, but state elections are a different ball game entirely. Aligning with SP – and in fact going so far as forming a government in UP with SP may be a good way for the Congress to keep BSP and BJP out of the state. Further, from the Congress’s point of view, the fact that the SP has only regional ambitions must be a very good thing.

The SP cannot align with any other party. It cannot align with the BJP because it has worked hard to nurture the Muslim fraternity (remember, Mulayam is often called Maulana?). The BJP continues to be a hard-core Hindu party. And the SP obviously cannot align with the BSP.

A caste/religion wise analysis of the voting in the 2009 elections reveals many interesting things. The SP was the predominant party amongst the Yadavs (73% of them voted for the SP), Lodhs (32% along with a similar % for the BSP), other OBCs (25%) and Muslims (30%). The Congress was not the #1 party in any segment, but importantly, it was the #2 party amongst the Brahmins (31%, BJP 53%), Rajputs (16%, BJP 53%), Other Upper Castes (31%, BJP 54%) and the Muslims (25%, SP 30%). The SP’s weakness is the Upper castes; the Congress’s the Yadavs, Lodhs and other OBCs. Neither party can hope to make inroads into the dalits, who vote en masse for the BSP (84% voted for the BSP). Clearly, if the SP and Congress get together, they will be in an almost unassailable position. Of course, state elections are fought on local issues – and the results could vary from what’s presented above.

The SP has worked in alignment with the Congress for some time now. They continue to support the Congress at the Center from the outside even now. It’s only because of the UP elections that they are unwilling to support the Congress on the FDI issue at this point. By and large, Mulayam would expect to be the boss in UP; and would be willing to let the Congress be the boss at the Center. Ideally, the same should have happened with Mamata. But Mamata won WB with such a massive margin that she doesn’t need the Congress at the moment. That’s unlikely to be the case in UP.

The major problem in a pre-poll alignment would be the haggle for seats. Both the Congress and the SP have gone too far ahead in the game to get into seat sharing talks now. But they should still try to hold talks for a pre-poll alliance. If that’s just not possible, both parties must at least agree not to attack each other in the run up to the polls. The common enemy in most cases is the BSP. Keeping the focus on the BSP will help the two parties fight “friendly” contests. In Western UP of course, there is the additional complication of Ajit Singh RLD to take into account. So no doubt, talks will be difficult to hold. But a good effort is still worth being made.

Even if a formal pre-poll alliance is not possible, an attempt must be made to seal a post-poll alliance – but agreement on the same must be made now. Even if the SP wins the UP elections, its mandate is likely to be fractured, and support from the Congress will be useful. The Congress can of course do with the support from the SP at the center. Most commentators are saying that this alliance will only happen post the UP elections; but I think a tacit understanding which makes SP vote with the Congress on FDI is not impossible.

If a deal of this kind can be done now, the Congress can hope to rebuff Mamata. Just like I had said, the DMK proved to be an easy pushover. It’s already agreed to vote with the government if an adjournment motion were brought on the FDI issue. It is Mamata who is creating the problem. Getting support from SP could prove to be the way to break the deadlock on the FDI issue. My own feeling is that once Mamata realizes that the SP is backing the Congress, her opposition to the FDI issue will disappear. After all, she needs to be in the good books of the Center if she has to make a dent against the Left in WB. If she loses the support of the Congress, she will be left all alone in a state, where the Left’s organizational machinery is very much intact. A few booboos from her party (and given her style, it wont take long for that to happen), and she could be up in a big struggle against the Left. In any cases, it’s a matter of time before the people of her state realize that she is nothing but a B team of the Left. She’s vulnerable – except that right now the Congress is even more vulnerable. Getting the SP’s support could change all this very quickly.

If the alliance of the Congress and SP wins in UP, it would be a big leg-up for Rahul Gandhi as well. The alliance should be projected as his initiative – so that he could take the credit for it. In any case, Rahul doesn’t want to be the CM of UP. His interest is more in establishing his credentials as a mass leader and staking his claim to being PM of India. By himself, he may find it more difficult to do so. In partnership with Mulayam, it may be easier. In politics, alignments are an important part of strategy – by showing gumption on this, Rahul Gandhi will show us his shrewd side.

The real truth is that the Congress has to make another attempt at putting the reforms back on the agenda. Standing by its decision on FDI in retail will help it gain the support of the urban middle class. By projecting the BJP as being anti-middle class, it will be able to dent its principal opponent strongly. It has to struggle…..rather than just throw in the towel…..

No comments:

Post a Comment