The debut of M K Stalin on the stage of national politics has put the proverbial cat among the political pigeons. By naming Rahul Gandhi as the prime ministerial candidate for the Mahagathbandhan (MGB), he has started a chain reaction. The process of forming an anti-Modi grand coalition has a major problem. There being too many aspirant prime ministers, to satisfy all, the silent agreement was to wait till after the elections. Stalin brooked no silence.
Stalin is no amateur. He announced the Rahul candidature precisely to break up the MGB to give the DMK a better chance at influencing Cabinet formation when and if the MGB wins.
The logic is simple. There are three sorts of parties which matter. First are the two big parties, the BJP and Congress, which contest seats in all the states of the Union. The next group is the regional/caste parties, such as the SP, RJD, BSP, NCP, which have a footprint in one state but can grab a few seats elsewhere. These parties go with the Congress but also compete with it while definitely opposing the BJP. They would favour post-election transaction, as was proposed in Madhya Pradesh.
The third sort is the group of State Satraps who control their local state solidly but face the national parties as rivals in the state elections. This is the group with the TDP, TMC, BJD, TRS. This is the cradle of would-be prime ministers. They want the final choice to be postponed. Stalin is alone among them in the unique position of binary competition with the AIADMK. He has to be chief minister before he can go further. The national parties are not his rivals. They both have been clients for DMK support in the past. Following the UPA, he has sealed his alliance with the Congress by naming Rahul as PM candidate.
Stalin’s move has inspired the Satraps to begin talk of a Federal Front. Mamata Banerjee had begun this long ago and now K Chandrashekar Rao has revived it. Of the four main players, Mamata and Chandrababu Naidu are, whatever they may have done in the past, anti-Modi rather than anti-BJP. Naveen Patnaik and Chandrashekar Rao are happy to join either coalition. They are also happier running their home state than going to New Delhi.
After December 11 results, the BJP is finding that its NDA partners are getting uppity and demanding better terms. Bihar has been accommodated and Uttar Pradesh will have to be adjusted. The Shiv Sena is acting up. The SAD is surely awaiting its turn. Narendra Modi has to project a new persona to secure sabka saath.
There are many other minor parties, the Left parties, AAP, AIMIM, minor Tamil Nadu parties etc. These would matter only if the result among the big collectives was so close that neither could form a majority government.
That is not likely. The one predictable outcome is no single-party majority. Next prediction is that no coalition will command a significant lead over its rival. If by any chance the Congress-led coalition scores more seats than the BJP/ NDA, government formation would be a long drawn out process before the satraps join. One or two Satraps may change sides. Remember Goa….
Or it may be the BJP/ NDA back, with a reduced majority.
In either case, expect no policy initiatives.