With the Lok Sabha elections less than a year away, the ‘season of unusual bonhomie,’ that has cemented its place in the Indian political calendar since the last three decades, has just arrived. The idea of a Mahagathbandhan-Grand alliance-that found a ray of hope after the Karnataka elections and subsequently was bolstered by the by poll results, is all set to take a formal shape. Its only objective: Checkmate BJP.
However, even before its formation, the Mahagathbandhan has been hit by obstacles. If the absence of Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik and his Telangana counterpart K Chandrashekhar Rao from the H D Kumaraswamy led government’s swearing in ceremony raised many eyebrows in the political circles, the dissensions brewing up within the Cong-JD (S) camps in Karnataka is certainly not good news for the patrons of an united alliance.
Moreover, much to the discomfiture of the SP and Congress, BSP chief Mayawati has declared how many seats her party would contest in UP in 2019. These are early days; the true picture will emerge during the seat sharing days.
Frankly speaking, except for Mamata Banerjee’s TMC, and to an extent, Lalu Prasad’s RJD and Sharad Pawar’s NCP, majority of the anti BJP (NDA) parties including the Congress, are battling for survival and therefore, a Mahagathbandhan, for them, is nothing but a political compulsion.
However, the camaraderie among some of the leading players of the Mahagathbandhan team, known for bitter rivalry in their respective states (SP-BSP, TMC-Left) is interesting indeed. Such a team can do wonders at times, but, normally it doesn’t always require a strong opponent, as the players are quite capable of scoring record number of self goals, themselves.
Interestingly, there are rumblings among the NDA partners too. With the opponents joining together, BJP would try its best to mend its differences with its long time associates, who are happy on their own turf. The saffron party will have to happily agree to play second fiddle to Nitish’ JD(U) in Bihar and Badal’s SAD in Punjab. How it cajoles Shiv Sena, only time will tell. But at no cost, it can allow the NDA to disintegrate.
The first and the biggest challenge before the grand alliance is to find a consensually acceptable leader, who, could match Modi’s stature- as per media surveys, the Prime Minister continues to be the most popular leader in the country- and instill confidence in the voters. By any yardstick, one who could have been the best choice to lead it is Sonia Gandhi. Not only is she acceptable to all, Sonia, as the UPA chairperson had ensured that the Congress led coalition government successfully complete 10 years.
But, post 2014, equations have changed. Today, BJP is the most dominant party in India. Rahul Gandhi has succeeded Sonia as Congress chief and his party is not in a position to lead the alliance. Barring a couple of states, in all others the grand old party will have to be content to play the role of a junior partner to its regional allies. It will have to concede to the allies’ demands, and forget Rahul’s PM ambitions as well.
The only way the Congress can call the shots in an alliance is when it manages to win two out of three crucial hindi belt states that goes to the polls later this year – Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. The North-Eastern state of Mizoram does not matter much in the overall arithmetic.
Sharad Pawar or Mulayam Singh Yadav could be the potential candidates to lead the Mahagathbandhan, but their candidature is likely to find stiff resistance from within. While Mamata may not agree to leave her state and be a Deva Gowda in West Bengal, behenji Mayawati could try her luck. Andhra Pradesh CM N Chandra Babu Naidu will be busy for TDP’s survival in his state. Whether Delhi CM and AAP chief, Arvind Kejriwal will be the consensual captain to lead the Mahagathbandhan side in the 2019 IPL (Indian Political League)? It’s indeed difficult to guess.
But, what doesn’t require any guesswork is that in the days to come plenty of amusements are in store for the people, media and the political observers.