Combo meal

Small parties get ways to maximise their clout in disaggregated state battles

Written by The Indian Express | Published:March 9, 2009 12:56 am

Is nothing for keeps? The BJD has snapped the ties of an

11-year old relationship with the BJP,citing a breakdown in seat-sharing negotiations. The BJP is,predictably,fuming,accusing the BJD of a clandestine pact with others,and demanding that president’s rule be imposed in Orissa,which had after all voted for the alliance and not the BJD alone. The BJD is defiant,secure in the support of sundry allies in the state like the JMM and the Left.

But this is only to be expected in a febrile pre-election moment sans binding pre-poll alliances,when every party wants to maximise its future,and outcomes are so uncertain. Whether these transparent calculations will be palatable to voters remains to be seen. For the moment parties seem intent on enlarging their own canvases,not even bothering with ideological justifications. And despite the lingering anxiety about the economy or national security,it is unclear whether these will solidify into political resentment,so a single overriding election issue is not easily identifiable. For now,anything goes; all permutations seem permissible. Though the much vaunted Third Front has finally materialised,comprising the CPI,CPI-M,Forward Bloc,RPI,TDP,TRS,AIADMK and JDS,their numbers may not add up to a workable winning formation. It seems pretty obvious that after the election if they don’t have enough MPs to compel the BJP or Congress to provide outside support,these parties could again operate by themselves,driving bargains with the party that will front the ruling coalition. By its own analysis,the Congress’s real task is not to rout the BJP as much as it is to painstakingly woo each of these mini powers.

Regional parties have it great,in an election that will be decided in a series of disaggregated battles,to be stitched back together again after the results. Many of them,like the AIADMK,have been cagey about their commitments,signalling their openness to either of the Big Two,and then coyly retreating behind the Third Front’s enclosure. The Congress’s state-wise allies like the NCP and the Trinamool have been working out hard deals for themselves. Besides the parties that fall,by default,into one camp or the other,those like the BSP,TRS,PMK or newly sprouted outfits like Chiranjeevi’s Praja Rajyam can truly claim blue-sky thinking,and go anywhere. The flexibility suits small regional parties perfectly,

as they savour the possibility of extracting their rewards in the post-election scrabble.

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