The role of the regional parties in the formation of the next government in Delhi is crystallising. The Trinamool National Congress [TNC] led by Mamata Banerjee has spoken up loud and clear. No ambiguity here. Mamata is dead against a BJP government, will only support a Congress-led or Congress-backed government and is confident of a key role in the making of India’s next leadership.
The Bahujan Samaj Party [BSP] led by Mayawati also has taken a similar stance. So, arguably, National Congress Party [NCP] led by Sharad Pawar.
On the other hand, Samajwadi Party [SP] led by Mulayam Singh Yadav and Janta Dal United [JD-U] led by Nitish Kumar are virulently opposed to the Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP], while also opting for a non-Congress government, ideally speaking. The TRS chief K Chandrasekhar Rao is equally categorical about not supporting a BJP government. “I am making a policy statement. TRS will not align with communal forces… We are a cent percent secular party. We will not join the NDA,” Rao announced at a massive public meeting yesterday.
The Biju Janta Dal [BJD] led by Naveen Patnaik is in a slightly different mode insofar as it keeps “equidistance” between Congress and BJP. Unlike SP and JD-U, Patnaik is not carrying any ideological baggage, which of course leaves the door open for fine-tuning later.
Indeed, what brings these regional parties together on a common platform would seem to be their antipathy (in varying degrees) toward the persona of the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.
Their antipathy toward Modi ranges from the visceral opposition bordering on hostility toward him (Mamata, Mayawati, Mulayam and Nitish Kumar) to fluctuating moods of aversion on the part of Pawar and Patnaik.
That leaves out another major regional party that is widely expected to do well at the polls — All India Dravida Munneta Kazhakam [AIDMK] led by Jayalalitha. ‘Amma’ so far directed the AIDMK to focus on its criticism of Congress — although, ironically, the latter is a virtual washout in Tamil Nadu politics. However, she broke fresh ground yesterday by criticising the BJP as well.
The media gives varying spin to what Jayalaithaa meant. There is hullabaloo that she “sparred” with Modi. But is it really so? To my mind, Jayalaithaa neatly sidestepped Modi — although he was going to be in Tamil Nadu for an election rally yesterday.
Jayalaithaa is a smart politician and she chose to criticise BJP on a manifestly ‘non-Modi’ issue — BJP’s unhelpful stance over the waters flowing through the great Cauvery river in Tamil Nadu. No doubt, the Cauvery river water dispute is an emotive issue, but the pertinent thing is that she said NOTHING at all on the core issue that others habitually bring up to berate the Modi-led BJP — secularism. The issue of secularism is a political metaphor today to castigate Modi and Jayalaithaa can’t be unaware of it.
Perhaps, she was even too acutely aware of it and therefore deliberately chose to give it a wide berth. In sum, the effect she produced is that she is keeping, somewhat like Patnaik, “equidistance” from Congress and BJP. (New Indian Express).
The big question, therefore, remains: What will she do if Modi makes an accommodative noise about the Cauvery issue sometime toward May 20 — ie., after the votes have been counted in Karnataka?
Indeed, Modi has already reciprocated. Apart from holding a celebrated meeting with Rajnikanth while in Chennai yesterday out of which he certainly hopes to attract a few votes from amongst the actor’s fans, Modi made what is quintessentially an election speech by arguing the case persuasively for ‘post-Dravida’ politics.
But, he avoided any vitriolic attack on Jayalithaa, as he is wont to while speaking of Mamata, Mayawati, Nitish Kumar, Patnaik, et al. (Modi even poked fun at Patnaik’s lack of familiarity with Oriya language.) Actually, Jayalatihaa’s failure to file income tax papers ought to be the stuff of a classic Modi speech. But he wouldn’t even look at it.
Jayalaithaa probably doesn’t need Muslim votes. Muslims account for only 5 percent of Tamil Nadu’s population. But then, they are concentrated in certain areas — Ramanathapuram, Vellore, Tirunelveli, Nilgiris, Chennai, Nagapattinam, Tanjavur, etc. — and are thinly spread out. In a multi-pronged contest as today’s in Tamil Nadu, however, each and every vote counts. And the Muslim organisations seem to grasp how Jayalaithaa’s abacus is working. They have thrown their lot with her main adversary M. Karunanidhi.
Posted in Politics.
– April 14, 2014