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Regional parties to play decisive role in Presidential election

Regional parties to play decisive role in Presidential election

New Delhi: Regional parties such as Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party (SP) will have a decisive say in who wins the upcoming presidential election, with neither the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) nor the main opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in a position to get its candidate elected to succeed President Pratibha Patil on its own, a Delhi-based think tank says.

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As the UPA’s candidate, Patil had won 57% of the votes in 2007. The CMS study shows that the Congress, which has 206 members in the Lok Sabha and 71 in the Rajya Sabha today, has only 31% of the 1,098,882 votes.

The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), leader of the NDA, has 51 seats in the 238-member Rajya Sabha and 114 in the 543-member Lok Sabha, making up 24% of the votes. However, 58 current Rajya Sabha members are retiring and biennial elections to fill their seats, scheduled on 30 March, are expected to change the arithmetic slightly.

The BJP-led NDA is in power in nine states, including Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, while the Congress and its allies are in power in 14 states, including Maharashtra and Rajasthan.

The study underlines the decisive role regional parties will play in the prestigious presidential election.

“Regional parties, irrespective of whether they group themselves as a front or not, stand in the way of UPA getting the required numbers in this election," the analysis said. “They account for about a quarter of all votes, including of Left parties, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), SP, Biju Janata Dal (BJD), All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and Telugu Desam Party." Political observers have interpreted the recent coming together of regional parties on one platform and opposing the formation of the proposed anti-terror body, the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), as significant ahead of the presidential election.

Orissa chief minister and BJD leader Naveen Patnaik has criticized the NCTC, saying the organization, proposed to be equipped with sweeping search and arrest powers, would encroach upon state government territory, given that law and order is a state subject.

A BJD leader, who didn’t want to be named, said Patnaik was “testing the waters" ahead of the presidential poll. The chief ministers of Trinamool Congress-ruled West Bengal, Bihar, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat, among others, have criticized the NCTC proposal.

The CMS data shows that no candidate can become the next president of India without the support of regional parties.

Mulayam Singh’s SP won power in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, by ousting Mayawati’s BSP in February-March assembly elections and could emerge as a kingmaker in the presidential poll.

“More specifically, support of any two of the three parties—SP, Left Front and the BSP—is essential for winning," said N. Bhaskara Rao, CMS chairman.

Mulayam Singh, Mayawati, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, Bihar’s Nitish Kumar (Janata Dal-United) and Tamil Nadu’s J. Jayalalithaa (All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) will have a major influence in deciding the outcome of the presidential poll, Rao said. “Support of a minimum of two of these leaders is essential for winning," he said. Rao added that Mayawati, despite her party’s defeat in Uttar Pradesh, could still make a difference and may even determine the candidates for president and vice-president.

Graphic by Yogesh Kumar/Mint

liz.m@livemint.com

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