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Nobody Has Confidence

Nobody Has Confidence

The first no-confidence motion against the Narendra Modi Government looks set to be moved in a few days. With BJP alone having the requisite numbers, the motion is of little consequence.

TDP’s withdrawal of support to Modi and support for the no-trust motion is to cut losses after having assessed that BJP would be liability as an ally, especially in the wake of Andhra not getting a special status after bifurcation.

Chandrababu Naidu’s stint as Chief Minister is nothing great either. Naidu has discovered that he needs to make BJP look like the villain when he fights the next assembly and Lok Sabha polls in 2019.

This compulsion has come about after Naidu started suspecting the YSR Congress Party had cut a deal with the BJP for a post-poll alliance in 2019 as BJP finds TDP unpopular. TDP does not want to end up as the opposition in the state and the Centre after 2019. It has hence decided to withdraw support to the Modi Government and back the no-confidence motion YSRCP is planning to move.

One may ask what YSRCP is doing by getting ready to move a no-confidence motion if it has cut a deal with the BJP. The YSRCP too does not want to be seen as a (secret) partner of BJP and the best way to squash such rumours would be to move a no-trust vote against Modi, which in any case is sure to be defeated.

Given the way BJP MPs and presiding officers have treated the Opposition in Parliament, it looks very unlikely that Opposition MPs would get a chance to clearly enumerate the failures of the Modi Government and why it thinks the Modi Government should go even before its term ends. On the other hand, Modi would do everything to play the victim and turn the tables on the Congress, its main challenger.

Don’t Hype This Either

Three Lok Sabha by-poll results do not an ‘Acche Din’ make for India’s opposition parties (apologies to Aristotle). After BJP’s massive win in Tripura, this column had pointed to media hyping the significance of the victory. It mentioned that the win would be a short-lived morale booster as by-polls to Phulpur and Gorakhpur were just around the corner, even though BJP was expected to win both seats.

Surprisingly, the results have gone against the BJP. However, just like post-Tripura last week it would be foolish to extrapolate these by-polls to predict the results for 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Last week, the media spread false impressions on Modi’s invincibility and downplayed the challenges BJP faces each time to win an election. This week, the media went overboard over the potential of the SP-BSP alliance. Politics is not math and one equation in an area does not work in another area or in another circumstance. The nature of May 2019 verdict would be better understood in March 2019, not March 2018. As British Prime Minister Harold Wilson once said, “a week is a long time in politics.”

1+1 Is Not 2

Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party have been the main parties in Uttar Pradesh from the beginning of the millennium. BJP was confined to the fringes till the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and Congress has never recovered in the state since it lost to Mandal-Mandir politics in the last few years of the last millennium.

The coming together of SP and BSP works well to some extent because ‘vote banks’ of the two parties supplement each other well in many places.

However, BSP has been wary of the alliance because it has been detrimental to its growth. BSP has demonstrated that it is capable of ‘transferring’ its votes to any party as its voters go faithfully by what leader Mayawati says.

This has not been the case with SP or BJP or Congress voters. While Muslims are believed to tactically vote for a candidate best placed to defeat the BJP, and hence would add up to the Dalit vote base of BSP, SP’s Yadav voters have shown aversion to choosing BSP candidates, especially if they belong to the Dalit community.

So, if BSP agrees to an alliance with SP, it may see SP and BJP emerging victorious and BSP pushed to third place. With SP’s interest limited to UP, the BJP would then have an informal understanding with it, as it has done ever since the two became powerful players in UP.

The personal animosity Mayawati had towards Mulayam Singh after the guesthouse incident of the 1990s have been overcome by the extreme courteousness Akhilesh Yadav has shown her, but does not change the political ground reality as far as ‘vote transfers’ are concerned.

However, if SP can convince its cadre to consider BSP as an ally and forge a larger unity that works on the ground, then BJP’s rhetoric and polarising efforts will not be able to match the formidable alliance. But that involves many ‘ifs’.

Chemistry between ‘Bua’ and ‘Bhatija Tipu’ notwithstanding, BSP’s alliance with SP would depend also on whether BJP would succeed in manipulating insecurities of BSP and/or suspicions of SP, coupled with the use of central investigative agencies before the 2019 elections.

Congress’ Role

In 1993, Mulayam Singh’s SP and Kanshi Ram-led BSP struck an alliance for the UP elections, which was held after the Kalyan Singh Government was dismissed for not protecting the Babri Masjid. The parties were able to defeat the BJP and check Hindutva’s sudden growth and allow the media to interpret the result as ‘people’s verdict against the demolition of the masjid’.

What was known little outside political circles was that the SP and BSP were brought together by a very unlikely person. P V Narasimha Rao, who was Prime Minister and was pilloried for the violation of the Constitution by Chief Minister Kalyan Singh, was determined to disallow the BJP to win and call it ‘people’s endorsement for the mosque demolition’.

So he sent his secret emissaries to work on the two aspiring but rival parties of UP to form an alliance in ‘national interest’. Of course, the two publicly pilloried Rao and the Congress to ensure that BJP would not get a chance to call it a ‘secular gang-up against Hindus facilitated by the Congress’.

The parties kept the BJP away from power and claimed the people’s mandate was against the demolition. After Congress’ pathetic performance in Phulpur and Gorakhpur recently, one wonders if there was a similar strategy of ‘splitting the upper caste vote of BJP’. Or was it just mere lack of judgement that saw Congress field a candidate despite seeing BSP supporting SP? Ordinary mortals would never know soon.


(Published on 19th March 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 12)