The BSP chief is determined to ensure that the Congress does not bounce back in national politics until the Parliamentary showdown next year.

 

The well calculated decision of the Bahujan Samaj Party chief, Mayawati of not forging any sort of electoral understanding with the Congress for the Assembly polls in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh is singularly targeted at weakening the Congress ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Like other regional players opposed to the Bharatiya Janata Party, Mayawati is also determined to ensure that the Congress—at least for the time being—does not bounce back in national politics until the Parliamentary showdown next year.

The logic is apparent that a demoralised and dispirited Congress would not like to assert itself when the Lok Sabha elections arrangements are finalised, and thus would agree to play second fiddle to smaller parties as it did a few months ago in Karnataka, thereby enabling H.D. Kumaraswamy to form the coalition government by sharing power with the Janata Dal (Secular). If the Congress were to wrest the majority in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and some other states, it undoubtedly would become the leader of any proposed alliance against the NDA government at the Centre.

The BSP supremo has also ensured that in the absence of an alliance in states where the Congress is perceived to be stronger than regional parties, there would be no obligation on her part, or for that matter even the Samajwadi Party, to subsequently concede to its demands for more seats in Uttar Pradesh during the Parliamentary elections. Over the years, the Congress has a diminished presence both in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and thus is dependent on its allies to boost its performance. In these two states, the Congress has no option but to fall in line with the SP, BSP and RJD.

By striking out at former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, Digvijaya Singh, and accusing him of acting at the behest of the BJP, Mayawati has further attempted to dispel the perception in a section of political quarters that she had been instigated to put up her nominees by Singh, who was offended with the Congress high command for sidelining him. The immediate consequence of her attack on Singh being that he stands absolved of helping Mayawati behind the scenes, while continuing to remain a key-player in the shifting political quagmire of both Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

Mayawati perhaps is the only recognised leader in the country who has the capacity to transfer her vote bank to any of her allies, knowing full well that none of them has the potential of reciprocating. Her announcement of going it alone in the poll-bound states is her method of communicating to other opposition parties that she could not be taken for granted, and had the capability of even playing a spoiler in elections if due importance to her was not given.

Many of her opponents are least amused with her calibrated moves and therefore behind her back are denouncing her for “helping” the BJP retain a hold over these states for a consideration. It is evident that a split in the anti-BJP vote would be of service to the saffron brigade, but since no elections are currently being held in UP, Mayawati is at ease, waiting for a poll arrangement prior to the Lok Sabha elections.

The BSP is not the only party wanting to keep the Congress guessing, as even the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), which has a marginal presence in Rajasthan, has appointed Ummed Singh Champawat, a prominent Rajput leader, as its state chief. Many years ago, from Pali, Champawat as a Congress nominee had nearly defeated former Chief Minister, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, but the BJP stalwart had made an emotional appeal to the electorate to support him in his last Assembly polls. Champawat’s appointment suggests that the NCP would demand some seats from the Congress so as to establish itself there.

What has become obvious after Mayawati’s unilateral declaration of going solo is that the formation of the Mahagathbandhan (Grand Alliance) has been delayed till the 2019 elections. There are indications that in case the NDA loses power, the alliance would be stitched up in the post poll scenario. Preceding so, there is a likelihood of adjustments to, as far as possible, engage the BJP in one on one contest with Opposition candidates, to ensure their defeat.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi, while speaking at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit on Friday, provided enough hints of how politics was going to unfold in the next few months. Rahul stated that there was a two-pronged strategy being deployed by the Opposition parties. The primary objective was to ensure the defeat of the BJP to oust the present government. Once that was achieved, the parties could form an amiable coalition and decide on who should lead it.

The implication being that the next Prime Ministerial nominee would be decided upon only after the present government was voted out. This was being done to avoid any kind of conflict amongst aspiring leaders of the proposed alliance. Rahul was also certain that his party would win the state Assembly polls due to the build-up of resentment against the BJP, and was hopeful that some kind of cooperative understanding with Mayawati would be negotiated prior to the Lok Sabha elections.

From the BJP standpoint, an outright victory in the Assembly polls would give them an overwhelming advantage during the run-up to 2019. Therefore, needless to say, both Narendra Modi and Amit Shah would put in their best efforts. However, the inverse side of the situation is that they would equally have to respect the mandate even if it went against their party; the rationale being that a negative vote would denote that people had given vent to their anger against the party and its state leadership. And once the indignation recedes, people may perhaps again vote for the BJP in the following elections for the Lok Sabha. Politics has both a logical as well as illogical side to it, as often stated by the late Devendra Dwivedi, P.V. Narasimha Rao’s political adviser.

 

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