Friday, March 14, 2014

Andhra and Telengana: It's advantage BJP even when the party does not hold a promise there!!!
                While holding firm on the view that the outcome of the elections from a set of States will determine who will be our Prime Minister after May 16, 2014, I am also of the view that the choice is restricted between Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi or any one whom his mother Sonia Gandhi  nominates. In other words, I will stick my neck out to say that there is no scope for a non-Congress-non-BJP government as it is. May 1996, when Deve Gowda emerged as Prime Minister is a story of the past and will remain an elusive idea at least in 2014.
                With this in mind, let me look at, closely, into the situation in the two Telugu speaking States—Andhra Pradesh and Telengana – from where as many as 42 MPs will be elected to the Lok Sabha. After the decision, guided primarily by partisan considerations of the Congress party, 17 Lok Sabha seats fall in Telengana and the 25 in what is now called Seemandra. And if we agree to keep the cynical designs (that led to the division) out of our minds for a moment, we may argue that the Congress is better off in the 17 seats. It’s ally in 2004 and 2009, the Telengana Rashtra Samiti, is no doubt guilty of having betrayed Sonia Gandhi when it refused to merge into the Congress even after its demand was executed.
And the TRS is likely to retain the couple of seats – Mahboobnagar and Medak -- that the outfit won in 2009. That the TRS does not claim any organizational presence in the rest of Telengana and the two seats it won in 2009 was also because of its alliance with the Congress. In this sense, the Congress organization as well as its ability to convert that into votes is beyond doubt insofar as the Telengana State is concerned. No doubt that the Congress had Y.S.Rajashekar Reddy on its side in the 2004 and 2009 elections; and that his legacy was taken over by his son, Jagan Reddy, after YSR’s death in September 2009. But then, the formation of Telengana, in the hurry in which it was executed, has helped the party wrest the organization and its mass support in 2014. The TDP is in an unenviable state and may find it hard to retain Khammam, the lone seat that the party had won from the Telengana region in 2009. And Jagan’s YSR Congress too may draw a blank from here.
This, however, is only part solace to the Congress. The party’s impressive score – 33 out of 42 along with the two TRS MPs and the lone MIM representative – had contributed significantly to the making of its total number of seats – 204 – after the 2009 elections. The BJP had drawn a blank from united-Andhra Pradesh and the TDP, its ally in the NDA had won only six Lok Sabha seats then. The Congress is in poor shape in 2014. And the party organization in Seemandra is almost gone, thanks to the making of Telengana. Sonia Gandhi will find it hard to field candidates with some strength in the 25 Constituencies across the truncated State. We are already hearing about sitting MPs, including cabinet ministers either wanting to retire from electoral politics or such of those like D.Purandeswari, one of NTR’s daughters whom the Congress had found to be on its side, joining the BJP!
And unlike in Telengana, the Congress mass base had shifted to Jagan Reddy’s YSR Congress in the past few years and what was still left with the party has been lost in the anger against the bifurcation of the State. The Telugu Desam Party, indeed, is there with its cadre intact making the contest for most of the 25 seats there between the Chandrababu Naidu’s TDP and Jagan’s YSR Congress. It is possible and most likely that these two parties share the 25 seats between themselves leaving the Congress and the BJP with chances that may lend them a couple of seats in the best case scenario. A case in point being the Vishakapatnam Lok Sabha seat where the Congress’s T.Subbirami Reddy and the BJP’s D.Purandeswari. But then, in the 24 other constituencies, it would be a contest between Jagan Reddy and Chandrababu Naidu insofar as Seemandra is concerned.
And between the two parties, it is for sure that the BJP stands a chance of their support in the event the party comes closer to government formation. While Naidu has been an old ally of the BJP, thanks to his anti-Congress stance, Jagan Reddy too has no strong convction against the BJP.  It is, after all, a fact that Jagan Reddy was involved, with the now infamous Reddy brothers of Bellary (the mine mafia), in financing Sushma Swaraj’s campaign against Sonia Gandhi some years ago.
In other words, it’s a win-win situation for the BJP, notwithstanding the fact that the party is nowhere in the reckoning from Seemandra, after the poll results are out. The BJP can bank upon either the TDP or the YSR Congress, whoever gets most of the 25 seats from Seemandra. In other words, while the Congress strength will be far lower that 33 this time from these two States (and thus pull down its Lok Sabha tally at least by 20 seats), the BJP can count on the support of at least 20 seats more this time.Well. In the remote possibility of the Congress getting close to 272, it can get Jagan to support if the party agrees to keep the CBI a caged parrot!
(This is the second part of a series I am doing on polls 2014. Plan to take up UP and Bihar next)

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Elections 2014-My Prognosis

                General Elections 2014, is once again, similar to that in 1998. As it was then, the Congress party has not named its Prime Ministerial candidate; while the BJP has declared Narendra Modi this time as it did with Atal Behari Vajpayee in 1998. Well. This was the case in 2004 too. The BJP-led NDA seemed certain of a return and Vajpayee was still its posture boy even while L.K.Advani had conveyed his `availability’ for the job. The Congress was written off by pundits; and yet it so happened that the party managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and after the melodrama involving Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh was made Prime Minister.
                There is something significant about the political discourse that marks the situation after 1996. The two `national’ parties may be called so only because their influence extends beyond a single state; and both depend on `regional’ parties that hold sway in a single state and do not exist elsewhere. There are few States – Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajastan, Chattisgarh and Karnataka – where the two `national’ parties contest against each other. And yet we see the discourse being dominated by Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi. The two `national’ parties put together had only  319 members in the Lok Sabha that is now in its last days.
                It is most unlikely that things will be any different after the coming general election. If at all, it is likely that the BJP will wrest a few seats from the Congress in Uttar Pradesh (where the Congress party had won 21 seats while the BJP won only 10 seats in 2009); it could be the other way round this time. The BJP’s gains in Uttar Pradesh, if things go this way, would help the party neutralize its losses, imminent as it is, from Karnataka. The BJP had won 19 Lok Sabha seats from Karnataka in 2009 against 6 seats by the Congress. There is the likelihood of this being reversed, notwithstanding Modi and the return of Yedyurappa.
                It is for sure that the Congress party will lose elsewhere too. The BJP is most likely to improve its score from such States as Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. The score in 2009 from MP was Congress 12 and BJP 16; and from Rajastan, it was Congress 20 and BJP 4. This will change. The BJP may win at least 5 more seats in Madhya Pradesh and it is likely that the score from Rajastan could be the reverse this time. In other words, the BJP wins at least 20 seats more from these two states and the Congress will be down by as many seats from these two states. And this part of the tale, where the two national parties stand insofar as elections 2014 is over now.
                It is inevitable, then, to look at the coming elections from the prospects of the two `national’ parties in the majority of States vis a vis the regional outfits there. And also from the dynamics of such States as Uttar Pradesh (where the contest is between the Samajwadi Party and the BSP), Bihar (between the JD-U, the RJD-Congress alliance and the BJP-LJP combine), West Bengal (between the Trinamul Congress and the Left), Andhra Pradesh (between the YSR Congress and the TDP), Tamil Nadu (AIADMK and the DMK) and Haryana (between the INLD and the AAP) as holding the key to who forms the Government after May 2014. I must add that there are such States as Maharashtra, where the Congress-NCP combine is pitted against the BJP-Shiv Sena combine or Punjab where it is a contest between the Akali Dal-BJP combine and the Congress or Orissa where the Congress will fight against the Biju Janata Dal.
                It is imperative, hence, to study the polls from the realities in these States. And also take into account what the AAP would end up achieving. The new party has shown its strength defying pundits and their prognosis in Delhi. It seems to be making an impact elsewhere too. All this can be done in due course. 

( I plan to do a series on this ... Will start with Andhra Pradesh-Telengana and go to other states/regions that I consider important this time... )