The state of flux on the electoral scene in the country is escalating with alliances going through an ordeal of fire. There is an air of uncertainty over what shape the tie-ups would eventually take. With the Congress-Aam Aadmi Party alliance having failed to come through due to opposition from within in Delhi and Punjab, especially the open and unambiguous stand taken by Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh against an alliance with AAP, there are strains in BJP’s alliance with Shiv Sena in Maharashtra with prospects of a parting of ways which could change the face of politics in that state. What seemed like a marriage of convenience between once-archrivals the Congress and the Telugu Desam in Andhra Pradesh is tottering now with the local party units not quite reconciled to an electoral arrangement between hitherto sworn enemies.
The virtual washout of the two parties in the Telangana assembly polls has indeed set both sides thinking. Instead, the YSR Congress led by Jagan Mohan Reddy which is seen as the emerging force in the State is negotiating with the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) for fighting the Andhra polls together. It is not as though TRS is a major force in Andhra, but YSR Congress is on the ascendant and any accretion to its strength would be a plus for the two parties. Whether such a front would strengthen the regional forces or would gravitate towards the BJP in the event of the NDA falling short of numbers after the Lok Sabha elections is still an open question but there can be little doubt that both TRS and YSR Congress are open to a mutually beneficial deal with the BJP. In the northeast, there is growing disenchantment with the BJP over the Citizenship Bill.
In Karnataka, the Congress-Janata Dal (S) alliance is on test and it could affect the challenge to the BJP in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. Numerically, the two parties are on a strong wicket but with dissensions in their ranks, there is no knowing where it will all end up and whether the parties would work for each other’s candidates. In Bihar, while the return of the BJP-Janata Dal (U) alliance has strengthened the alliance, the alternate alliance between the Congress, the RJD and other parties could pose an effective challenge to them in the caste-ridden politics of the State. The Lalu Yadav factor would be keenly watched for the effect it has on the polls.
In Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena which was flexing its muscles against the BJP is less hostile now with the realisation that it would be a bigger loser than the BJP in the event of the parties snapping links. Yet, Uddhav Thackeray is unpredictable and could well escalate the fight further. The Congress-NCP alliance is expected to hold if the Shiv Sena sticks to BJP but if they fall apart, there would well be a BJP-NCP deal in the offing at the last minute. In UP the Bahujan Samaj Party-Samajwadi Party amicable settlement on seat sharing has evidently jolted the BJP which has much to lose in the country’s most populous state, having bagged 71 of the 80 seats in 2014, with two more won by its allies. Whatever BJP leaders may say, a keen contest is well on the cards. The BJP losses would be difficult to make up from other states.
‘The NDA is hoping to win a few seats in West Bengal to cash in on an anti-Mamata mood in some sections but that is steeped in uncertainty. In Kerala, the early signs of BJP gaining ground may not sustain and that could spell trouble for the party which has been working hard at it with active help from the RSS. But some surprises cannot be ruled out. In the three states in which the BJP failed to retain power recently—Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhatisgarh — any anti-incumbency advantage would flow to the BJP now that they are under Congress rule. All in all, the upcoming elections promise to be keenly-fought and while pre-poll alliances would be important, post-poll tie-ups could also hold some surprises. There is intense jockeying at play and high stakes involved.