Failure of strategy

While the current presidential race exposed the weakness in the flanks of both the ruling and the opposition alliances it has hurt the latter more. The difference is that while the Congress quickly recovered from the shock it received from its allies and made a winning tactical stroke by announcing Pranab Mukherjee’s candidature, the NDA is in the unenviable position of not only putting up a fruitless fight but also finding its ranks torn in the middle. By deciding to support the candidature of former Speaker P A Sangma, at a very late stage, the BJP, which heads the NDA, has made it amply clear that it had no credible plan and strategy for the elections. In an unintended sense it amounts to even a reflection on Sangma because the BJP with its long dithering may have given the impression that it could not find a candidate who could give a better fight to Pranab Mukherjee.

Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee’s revolt against the Congress was not unexpected, considering the unreliable record of the friendship and the overreaching nature of her politics. The Congress will manage to live with the fissure without damage to the presidential election prospects and, for the time being, to the government. But the BJP has seen two of its tested and trusted allies—the Shiv Sena and the Janata Dal (U)—parting company with it on the election and supporting the UPA candidate. Having failed in belated attempts in full public view to persuade former president Abdul Kalam to accept its nomination, it had to co-opt a candidate proposed by two regional parties. In the waiting game, it lost the initiative and through poor strategy it was forced to follow smaller parties rather than lead the opposition fight in the election. The political and psychological damage caused by the divergent stand of the allies will be more telling on the NDA than that caused by the initial shock from its allies to the UPA. 

The present presidential election has had the curious effect of creating divisions in all political alliances. Even the solid Left Front is divided with the CPM and the Forward Bloc supporting the UPA candidate and the CPI and the RSP deciding to abstain. What has happened in the bargain is that the Opposition, which had put the UPA government on the mat on corruption issues stands divided, while allowing the Congress breathe easy for the time being.

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