Originally Published 2012-02-15 00:00:00 Published on Feb 15, 2012
As things stand at present, the UPA-II has to get its mandate renewed. The Congress party's alliance with the RLD and the induction of RLD leader Ajit Singh as a Cabinet minister looking after Civil Aviation last year, in fact, may have no meaning if that alliance is not put to optimum use in the post-electoral scene in UP.
UP: Emerging scenario gets confusing
Of the ongoing Assembly elections to five states, all eyes are focused on the seven-phase Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh which began on February 8. The state, having one-sixth of India’s population, has as many as 403 Assembly seats for grabs.

The UP elections received special attention from the Election Commission (EC) because of a series of irregularities of various types taking place in the state. The order of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) for covering the statues of Chief Minister Mayawati and of her party’s poll symbol, the elephant, throughout the state drew protests from Ms Mayawati and other BSP leaders. However, the order was justified by the CEC on the grounds that it was the EC’s responsibility to ensure a level-playing field for all the contesting political parties.

During the electioneering process there were some interesting statements made by various party leaders. Speaking at Faizabad, BJP senior leader L.K. Advani said that his party would ensure that a grand Ram temple was constructed at Ayodhya and with the consent of all concerned. Mr Advani stated that he would not consider his political career as a success until a grand temple was built where Ram Lalla was born. He spoke of the Rath Yatra he started from Somnath to Ayodhya and also referred to the issue of black money kept by Indians in Swiss bank accounts.

Though the counting of votes will take place on March 4, broad indications show how the wind is blowing. It is agreed by all pollsters and psephologists that there is no possibility of the ruling party retaining power in the state. In the 2007 Assembly elections, the BSP secured a clear majority of 205 seats and was able to form the ministry with Ms Mayawati, who calls herself a ’Dalit ki Beti’, as Chief Minister. It was a miracle of democracy as former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao aptly put it. However, the miracle seems to be fading in UP. Pollsters do not believe that the BSP may emerge as the largest single party again, let alone coming up with a majority.

The largest single party is expected to be the Samajwadi Party with about 125-127 seats. The BSP is expected to lose nearly 100 seats from its present tally.

The Congress party is tipped to get about 78 seats while the BJP is expected to win between its present tally of 51 and 57 seats. The Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) of Mr Ajit Singh, which is an electoral ally of the Congress, may get around 22 seats. Both parties thereby may reach a tally of about 100 seats, which will become a decisive factor in the process of forming the government.

If the SP led by Mr Mulayam Singh and the Congress along with its ally RLD join hands and make a bid for power, it may work out in their favour since these three parties together are expected to secure more than 200 seats and that means a majority of the total number of Assembly seats in the UP Assembly.

The picture, however, gets blurred with different claims and statements from various party leaders, particularly those of the Congress. Mr Rahul Gandhi, General Secretary of the Congress, speaking at Varanasi on February 4, reportedly said that the Congress would not tie up with "goons or thieves" to come to power in the state. He added that he was interested in ensuring the return of people’s dignity and pride. Mrs Priyanka Vadra, who has been campaigning in select constituencies, also said that Rahul was not after the post of Prime Minister and that the country already had an honest and able Prime Minister in Dr Manmohan Singh.

If psephologists and pollsters prove correct in their predictions, the formation of a government with a working majority is possible when Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav’s SP and the Congress-RLD alliance join hands. But after the pronouncements of Mr Rahul Gandhi and Mrs Priyanka Vadra, that possibility appears doubtful, particularly if the Congress strictly stands by what Rahul and Priyanka have stated. It is unlikely that the SP or the BSP may consider joining hands with the BJP. And, in any case, the BJP joining with either the SP or the BSP may not lead to the magic figure of 200 plus. Does this mean that UP is heading for President’s rule?

Once counting is over and the final scores of the various parties are formally announced, it is entirely possible that certain political parties, including the Congress, may seriously reconsider their stand and think of ways and means of avoiding President’s rule. President’s rule does not help the prospects of any political party. The political parties concerned, particularly the SP, the Congress and the RLD, have important stakes in ensuring the formation of a working alliance. In the event of the Congress standing by what Rahul has clearly stated, leading to the imposition of President’s rule in March/April this year, it may have serious repercussions on the parliamentary elections in 2014.

The UPA coalition government, which was formed in 2004 and renewed in 2009, heavily depends on the support of regional parties like the DMK of Tamil Nadu and the Trinamool Congress of West Bengal. The Trinamool chief, Ms Mamata Banerjee, has become difficult in her attitude towards the UPA government at the Centre. She has gone to the extent of saying that she would welcome the exit of the Congress ministers from her coalition government in West Bengal. She has also fielded her candidates in UP and thereby made the chances of Congress difficult.

In the south, the DMK leadership has spoken about reviewing its support to the Congress at the Centre since it is upset over the Supreme Court judgment holding Mr A. Raja totally responsible for all the irregularities in the award of the 2-G licences, which have now been cancelled. The SP’s support at the Centre is, therefore, absolutely necessary for the Congress in the 2014 elections.

As things stand at present, the UPA-II has to get its mandate renewed. The Congress party’s alliance with the RLD and the induction of RLD leader Ajit Singh as a Cabinet minister looking after Civil Aviation last year, in fact, may have no meaning if that alliance is not put to optimum use in the post-electoral scene in UP. The leaders of the Congress and the RLD as well as the SP may, no doubt, discuss their strategy once the election results are out in the March first week and they decide their future course of action. And then one may find answers to the questions whether UP is heading for President’s rule or not, and whether the electoral picture is becoming more confused so far as the 2014 parliamentary polls are concerned.

(The author is an Advisor to Observer Research Foundation. He is a former Governor of Uttar Pradesh)

Courtesy: The Tribune

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