Supping with  the enemy?

Survival is a strong human instinct. It makes you do things you wouldn’t do ordinarily. Who would have thought, for instance, that the Congress and the CPI(M) would agree to put aside their bitter past and toy with the idea of jointly facing the challenge of Mamata Banerjee  in the coming Assembly poll. Fear of outright rejection by the voters in the poll due in a couple of months seems to have made them forget all about inherent ideological and organisational contradictions and differences. It is another matter that in spite of a united fight against the Trinamool Congress there is little chance of the anti-Mamata forces stopping her juggernaut from sweeping back to power. At least, contesting the election jointly will prevent the splintering of the anti-Trinamool votes and, as a consequence, fetch a few seats more for the strangest of combinations. The most likely CPI(M)-Congress partnership has contradiction written all over it. To begin with, a section of the CPI(M) leadership led by the hardcore ideological Marxist and former general secretary Prakash Karat remains opposed to such a deal. Karat has the party line in his support which categorically ruled out any truck either with the BJP or the Congress.  However, the ever-pragmatic Sitaram Yechury, who succeeded Karat as general secretary a few months ago, was always known to be soft towards the Congress. His tying up with the bourgeois and corrupt Congress, therefore, should not come as a surprise. Yechury is also under pressure from the party’s West Bengal unit which,  fearing decimation by Trinamool,  is desperately pleading for an alliance with the Congress. The immediate fall-out of such an alliance will be felt in Kerala where too elections for a new Assembly are due around the same time this year. Traditionally, the Congress and the Marxists have led rival electoral fronts in Kerala. The likely Congress-Communist pact in West Bengal is bound to queer the pitch for the Left Front in Kerala. Poised to win the coming election in the State, especially after a slew of corruption charges against Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and his senior ministers hit the headlines in recent weeks, the Left Front will lose its anti-Congress punch once the lead party is seen to be in bed with the Congress in West Bengal. The BJP, making a strong bid to emerge as the third force in the State which is equidistant from the two fronts, might stand to gain as the most vocal critic of the outgoing United Front Government. But the coming together of the Marxists and the Congress might hinder the BJP’s attempts to gain a foothold in West Bengal since there will be consolidation of the anti-Trinamool votes behind the new coalition. But the unprincipled and opportunistic coalitions do not end here.

In Tamil Nadu, a desperate Congress fearing complete irrelevance, has gone on all fours and joined the DMK parlour as a junior partner. The party had snapped links with the DMK on the eve of the Lok Sabha poll after a number of DMK ministers in the UPA Government had gained notoriety for humongous corruption scams. The pitiable condition of the Congress in the State was reflected in its performance in the Lok Sabha poll, with a large majority of its candidates failing to save even their security deposits. Its unconditional surrender to the DMK stems from the realisation that a few crumbs from Karunanidhi’s table are better than nothing on its own. Rahul Gandhi, the once mighty proponent of the go-it-alone line, is now ready to play second and third fiddle to anyone who would have him. This reflects the realisation that despite the huge noise he makes daily for the benefit of an obliging media his presence on the ground is still very, very thin. In any case, the gains or losses from these coalitions-for-survival would depend crucially on the performance of the ruling parties in West Bengal, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. As of now, it is most likely that Jayalalithaa might retain power, albeit with a reduced margin, while in West Bengal Mamata seems to be a certain winner. Instead of relying on patience and hard work, the loss of nerve by the Gandhi scion is reflected in the alacrity with which he has plumped for unprincipled and opportunistic alliances.

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