After semi-final, rivals will look out for new allies

December 10th, 2008 - 4:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata PartyNew Delhi, Dec 10 (IANS) With just ended state elections throwing up no clear winner, Indian political parties are wooing new allies as they brace for the parliamentary battle early next year, party leaders and analysts say.The Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won two states each in northern India, a clear indication that no single party or coalition is likely to win a majority in the 545-seat lower house, the Lok Sabha, on its own strength.

The BJP was the bigger loser in the staggered November-December contest, retaining Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh but losing Rajasthan and getting routed in Delhi. The Congress also bagged Mizoram.

For a party that has already announced the names of several candidates for the parliamentary election, the BJP, party sources told IANS, was certain to review its election strategy.

Said one party leader: “It is clear that emotive issues are not going to work. This means that our earlier premise has to be revised. Candidates will matter, governance will matter, local issues will also matter.”

Congress sources also admit that though they have reasons to celebrate following the state victories, they know these elections have exposed weaknesses in their ranks.

The Congress was crushed in Madhya Pradesh and has been booted out of the tribal belt of Chhattisgarh, a former bastion. The two states account for 40 Lok Sabha seats.

The Congress remains an also-ran in significant parts of India including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and even Orissa, which among themselves elect 222 MPs.

There is more to rue.

Both the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) are a weakened lot today, with some allies bidding goodbye and not enough taking their place.

The BJP’s main allies are the Shiv Sena, Janata Dal-United, Biju Janata Dal (BJD), Akali Dal, Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and Indian National Lok Dal (INLD). This is a far cry from the wider coalition it headed while in power from 1998 to 2004.

Similarly, the Congress’ key allies are the DMK, PMK, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Samajwadi Party, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) besides some smaller groups.

The Congress’ biggest loss is the parting of ways by the Left, which still has the potential to win 40-50 Lok Sabha seats - a substantial number in a splintered house.

And both BJP and Congress insiders admit that a key player post the 2009 Lok Sabha election - due in April-May - would be Uttar Pradesh’s ruling Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).

There is a widespread realisation that the BSP, led by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati, could win up to half the 80 Lok Sabha seats from the sprawling state besides 8-10 elsewhere to determine who gets to rule India.

Mayawati, who sees herself as a future prime minister, teamed up with the Communists to try and unseat Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government over the India-US nuclear deal. But since then she has kept a distance from the Left.

The Left, almost friendless after the bitter row with the government, has reached out to the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu, having already sewed up electoral tie-ups with the Telugu Desam Party and Janata Dal-Secular.

But that may not be enough to form a new Third Front. In any case, almost everyone now going with the Left has done business with the Congress and BJP in the past - and may do so again.

Superstars Chiranjeevi and Vijayakant from Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu are new political players. Both are expected to garner thousands of votes and are potential allies for the national parties.

Said a Congress leader who did not want to be identified: “We won in 2004 because (our president) Sonia Gandhi reached out to the right allies. Can we win a majority (in Lok Sabha) with the existing allies? I am not sure.”

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