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The numbers game

The numbers game
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First Published: Mon, Feb 02 2009. 12 43 AM IST
Updated: Mon, Feb 02 2009. 12 43 AM IST
New Delhi: Coalition governments are now a reality in Indian politics. The Congress and the BJP, the two extreme poles in Indian polity, after initially dismissing the phenomenon as an aberration, have come around to the view that the side which sews up the best coalition, could be the ultimate winner.
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And yet the Congress Working Committee on Thursday declared that it wouldn’t go for a grand alliance at the national level. Rather it would have state-level ties for Lok Sabha elections. What are the reasons for such a stand? According to Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, a senior journalist who has co-authored a book on coalitions, a section of the Congress is not reconciled to the fact that the days of single party rule are over.
India has seen many coalitions in the last decade. This has coincided with the rise of regional outfits, the decline of the Congress party and the rise of Bharatiya Janata Party at the national level.
The decline of the Congress is most prominent in the four numerically important states of Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar and Tamil Nadu. Together the four states account for 240 seats in the 543-seat Lok Sabha. The Congress has virtually no presence in Uttar Pradesh, the state with 80 seats, the largest proportion in the Lok Sabha. The party is in an uneasy dialogue with Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party for an honorable seat sharing arrangement in the state.
In West Bengal, the party has to tackle a maverick Mamta Banerjee, who broke away from the Congress to float Trinamool Congress. In Bihar and Tamil Nadu, the party has alliances with Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal or RJD and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam or DMK respectively. The two parties have been firmly backing the United Progressive Alliance or UPA, the ruling alliance led by the Congress. But the assessment is they may not do well in their respective states.
The Congress is in alliance with NCP or Nationalist Congress Party in Maharasthra, whose leader Sharad Pawar has prime ministerial ambitions. The party may have to do some tight rope walking in Andhra Pradesh as Telangana Rashtriya Samiti or TRS has broken away from UPA. It is likely to join another front floated by the Telugu Desam Party or TDP and the Left.
Out of 28 states in India, there are only eight states in which the elections could be described as bipolar where the Congress and the BJP are face to face. This includes Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi and Chattisgarh. In all other states there is a third regional party or a combination of regional parties, which plays a dominant role.
Thakurta believes the situation is extremely fluid and clarity might emerge only after the elections are over.
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First Published: Mon, Feb 02 2009. 12 43 AM IST