A grand alliance which doesn’t have her at its head will prove a non-starter.
In the end, Mayawati acted true to form. Though all politics is selfish and treacherous, the BSP czarina is known to practice it far more ruthlessly than all others. Just when the anti-Modi chieftains had persuaded themselves that she was firmly in their corner, Mayawati delivered a 440-volt shock, tying up, first, with the Congress rebel, Ajit Jogi, in Chhattisgarh, and, a few days later, deciding to go solo in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
Given that in 2013, the vote difference between the winner and the loser was less than 1% in Chhattisgarh, Mayawati’s tie-up with Jogi could well ensure a consecutive fourth term for Raman Singh. Small wonder then the Chhattisgarh Congress chief holds the Enforcement Directorate and the CBI as the real match-maker. The BSP polled 4.7% of the popular vote, winning but only one seat, but the BJP vote-share was 41% and seats 49, while the Congress polled 40.3% for 39 seats. In short, Mayawati can sink the Congress in Chhattisgarh yet again.
In Madhya Pradesh, Kamal Nath, one half of the uneasy diarchy in the state Congress arranged by the Delhi viceroy, Rahul Gandhi, has not been so outspoken, but there can be little doubt under his breath he too is echoing his Chhattisgarh counterpart. Nath, far savvier in making money than making alliances, has a tougher task. His first is to paper over the differences in the faction-ridden Pradesh Congress and then try and get the better of an affable but crafty Shivraj Singh Chouhan whose connect with the grassroots promises him further lien on the chief ministerial gaddi. Mayawati can make a difficult task for the Congress further difficult. In 2013, she had polled 6.29% of the popular vote to win four seats, but in a close election this time around she can make a difference between victory and defeat.
In Rajasthan, the BJP seems to have lost much of its sheen, thanks largely to Vasundhara Raje’s haughty ways and her propensity to cut moral and legal corners for gains for self and cronies. Despite the fact that the difference in the vote-share between the BJP and the Congress in 2013 was a whopping 12%, the Congress is said to have recovered much lost ground, especially in the urban and semi-urban areas. Mayawati had polled 3.37% of the popular vote for her three seats. And it is here she could be relevant for the main contenders. The Congress has to make up the 12% gap and then some, especially in case Mayawati acts as a spoiler, which, as things are, she certainly will.
But what lies behind Mayawati’s “ekala chalo re” clarion call? She is a cool customer who plots her moves keeping herself at the centre of things. If she sees advantage in going solo, she must have reckoned that going with the so-called Mahagathbandhan or Grand Alliance will not serve her interest. Post-election, she can bargain with either the BJP or the Congress, depending on the outcome. This also helps keep her options open for the 2019 Lok Sabha contest. She cannot be seen to be making common cause with a Rahul Gandhi-led Congress, whose prospects appear none too bright despite the daily noises emanating from him and given a disproportionately large space by the Delhi-centric media.
If she is a grassroots leader, Rahul is a hawai leader who believes in shoot-and-scoot, while his lapdogs dutifully parrot him. A national leader who is no longer certain of retaining his own parliamentary seat without outside support from Mayawati or Akhilesh Yadav has to be day-dreaming if he believes the Opposition leaders who have logged far more miles trudging the dirt tracks of rural India than he—a very frequent flyer—may have logged gallivanting the exotic parts of the world, would rally around him.
Mayawati and Mamata Banerjee are damned if either agrees to play second fiddle to him who is still wet behind the ears when it comes to being a true-blue leader. In other words, if the Mahagathbandhan now lies in tatters it is because no one is ready to accept Rahul as its chief fulcrum, no, not even as a notional leader by dint of his hereditary position as the head of the Congress Party, whose best is well and truly behind it.
Besides, in UP, Mayawati’s main karambhoomi, Rahul counts for zilch. She cannot be overly bothered giving him a leg-up in Rajasthan, MP and Chhattisgarh just so a good showing there instigates him to try and strike a harder bargain in the grand alliance which might be revived, at least on paper, ahead of the parliamentary polls. In other words, Mayawati’s solo act in the three states could well be to bolster her prospects for a bigger share in the likely seat-sharing arrangement in 2019 in a yet-to-be formed grand alliance. As for the coming Assembly polls, it lies dead despite the MP Congress’ effort to hoodwink by claiming it has brought together six parties under its umbrella. How meaningful are these parties can be known from the fact that it boasts of a newly-minted Loktantrik Janta Dal, a brand new signboard owned by the Nitish Kumar reject, Sharad Yadav.
CASTEISTS VS INDIANS IN BIHAR
Last week we reported how the Bihar Congress had splashed posters all over Patna announcing the names of new office-bearers complete with mug-shots and caste affiliations as well. For instance, photos of Rahul Gandhi and the new Bihar Congress chief Madan Mohan Jha had Brahmins written underneath. Likewise, Thakurs, Muslims, OBCs, Dalits, the whole jingbang from the state’s caste cornucopia.
Interestingly, a few days later, the Bihar BJP followed up with its own posters. For once, the text was minimal and the idea clever. It had photographs of Narendra Modi, Amit Shah and several state functionaries with their names and photos. But instead of caste, it had only one word written in bold underneath each photo: INDIAN.
Embarrassed, the last one heard, the Bihar Congress was blaming a low-level functionary for the posters, though the way a Bihari journalist, who mentors the AICC regularly, was excited about Jha’s appointment, perceiving it to be a potential electoral manna for the party, it would indicate that these were as per a pre-meditated plan.
SOCIAL MEDIA WARS
Social media is now a veritable battleground between the BJP and the Congress. Though the Congress has in recent years made its presence felt, the BJP continues to score far more hits, thanks to the easy target it has in Pappu, er…sorry, Rahul Gandhi. Here is the latest which seems to have hit the bull’s eye.
A: Why is the Congress still struggling to become relevant?
B: Simple. For ten years it was in power, it did not allow a WISE MAN to open his mouth, and after it lost power, it cannot shut up the I…T.