The great churning

Published : Apr 24, 2009 00:00 IST

THE political realignments taking place now prove that Bharatiya Janata Party leader L.K. Advanis grand idea of a bipolar polity emerging at the Centre in India, with the BJP and the Congress as the two poles and the other parties grouped around them, will remain a pipe dream. The rise of regional parties aspiring to play a national role and a concomitant drop in the influence of the national parties can ensure this in Elections 2009. This is the sentiment that finds echo in the reports filed by Frontlines correspondents from States that vote on April 16 and 23, the first two phases of the five-phase elections.

The analyses on the following pages show why Elections 2009 could be an inflection point in Indias electoral politics. Uttar Pradeshs lead in the political empowerment of Dalits through Mayawati and her Bahujan Samaj Party buries for good Advanis grand idea. However, the BSP may have lost the advantage it had in January 2008 when it announced its decision to contest all Lok Sabha seats. Challenging it is the new social engineering that the Samajwadi Party has attempted by taking the help of former BJP Chief Minister Kalyan Singh at the expense of its alliance with the Congress. The BJP is trying to charge itself with new Hindutva energy through Varun Gandhi.

In Bihar, the alliance between Lalu Prasad and Ram Vilas Paswan, while bringing to mind the Socialist surge of the mid-1970s, has put in place a virtually unbeatable caste combination against the Nitish Kumar-led National Democratic Alliance.

Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh represent a sliver of hope, though, for the national parties. The BJP is banking on its popular Chief Ministers to deliver to it Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, while the Congress hopes to retain its hold on Jharkhand in alliance with the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha.

Alliances some new and others time-tested dominate the scene in the rest of the States in this round. In Maharashtra, a new player, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena of Raj Thackeray, is being watched closely for its potential to be a spoiler.

In Orissa, the elections, to the Assembly as well, promise to be an interesting three-way race. The Biju Janata Dal marches on in the hope of a third straight win, this time in the company of the Left and the Nationalist Congress Party after ending its alliance with the BJP. The Congress, after nine years in the wilderness, gives itself a chance to return to power in the three-cornered contest. A desperate BJP seems to have gone back to its communal agenda in a devious attempt to occupy the non-Congress space.

The party is trying out a similar strategy in Karnataka, where it formed a government on its own last year. Aggressive moral policing by Sangh Parivar affiliates and attacks on churches have made the party unpopular. The people have alternatives in the form of the Janata Dal (Secular), a leading constituent of the Third Front, and the Congress.

In Andhra Pradesh, the ruling Congress is on shaky ground. Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, who faces Assembly elections as well, seemed to be coasting along on pro-poor schemes when the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) parted ways with the Congress last year at the Centre and in the State. There emerged a grand anti-Congress alliance of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), the TRS, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Communist Party of India. But what could be the game-changer in the State is Praja Rajyam, the party that film actor Chiranjeevi launched in mid-2008.

In Kerala, it is a battle of the fronts yet again, with both the Left Democratic Front (LDF) and the United Democratic Front (UDF) having their share of troubles, the LDF perhaps more than the UDF.

If there is one clear winner in this round of elections it is the promises to the poor. Be they the rising regional parties or the struggling national parties, all have on offer free power, cheap rice, health insurance for the poor, and much more.

Sign in to Unlock member-only benefits!
  • Bookmark stories to read later.
  • Comment on stories to start conversations.
  • Subscribe to our newsletters.
  • Get notified about discounts and offers to our products.
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide to our community guidelines for posting your comment