Poll tiding: Who woos whom

The most crucial lesson in politics is that if you narrow your appeal, you don’t win elections. And no political party may have learnt this lesson better than main rivals Congress and BJP in recent times.

As it is, the writ of the two national players does not run in the big alliance states, where they are buffeted by caste equations and emerging regional satraps. Yet, these states are critical to their overall performance in the next Lok Sabha elections. Aringside view of the impending big fight:        

Tough times in UP

Congress and BJP may be dreaming of forming the government at the Centre post-2014 polls but both parties face an uphill task in India's electorally biggest state of Uttar Pradesh that sends 80 MPs to the Lower House of Parliament.

Congress, which won 21 seats in 2009 parliamentary polls, could secure only 29 seats in the recent Assembly polls as it  lost support of the muslims and could not find favour with dalits and upper castes.

This time it is trying to not only woo the muslims aggressively but also follow the caste equations. The BJP, which suffered the most once the Ram temple issue lost its electoral appeal, is also trying to look for some emotive planks.

Churning in Karnataka

With senior BJP leader in Karnataka B S Yeddyurappa announcing plans to launch his own political outfit, the Congress which is keen to stage a comeback in this critical state as a precursor for the big fight in 2014, may well find a friend in him. Though the focus of all the political parties here at the moment is on the upcoming assembly poll due in April-May 2013, a lot of churning is expected to take place in the next two to three months, including dissolution of the Assembly.

Cong gameplan in West Bengal

The Congress and Trinamool Congress may not mend ties in West Bengal but the former will certainly try to make a dent in TMC’s vote bank. 

In the 2004 Lok Sabha election, Congress and TMC polled 14.56 and 21.04 per cent votes respectively against Left Front’s 48.66 per cent but Congress won six seats and Trinamool got only one seat whereas Left Front won 35 seats. The reason for Trinamool’s dismal show was the division of anti-Left votes, estimated to be nearly 36 per cent.

In 2009 LS elections, the alliance between TMC and Congress managed to stop this erosion and the Left Front’s share of seats fell from 35 to 15 while the  TMC’s jumped from one to 19 and Congress retained its six seats. In fact, in 2009 election and in the Assembly elections 2012, there was roughly 12 per cent vote swing in favour of Trinamool, while the Left Front suffered  under 9 per cent swing away from it.

In 2014 election, Congress is likely to field candidates in all the 42 seats and this will again divide the anti-Left vote providing scope for the Left Front to regain its lost ground.
From a national perspective, Congress will prefer to give Left this virtual advantage because it will not support the BJP.  

Gujarat to shape Nitish Plan for Bihar

By pouring cold water on Lalu Prasad and Ram Vilas Paswan, who nurtured an undeclared dream to be inducted into the Union Cabinet during the recent reshuffle, Congress has sent a loud and clear message to its erstwhile allies that it is open to do business with the JD (U) strongman - Nitish Kumar post-2014 Lok Sabha polls, should the situation arise.
Nitish may be one of the oldest allies of the BJP but his equation with the saffron brigade will depend entirely on the outcome of the Gujarat election. If Narendra Modi, his bete noire, emerges stronger post-Gujarat polls, Nitish will then have no hesitation to chart his own route for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Suspense-filled transition likely in Tamil Nadu

The political scenario unfolding in Tamil Nadu smacks of a suspense-filled transition. But this is only the surface reality, cautions Panruti S Ramachandran, veteran Tamil Nadu politician. ‘Panruti’, as he is popularly known and now Deputy Leader of the DMDK in the Legislative Assembly, does not think that the State will throw up any radical alliance reconfiguration ahead of LS polls.

 “The AIADMK Supremo J Jayalalitha would like to contest all the 40 LS seats on her own (including one seat in Pondicherry UT), and try to win the maximum for an assertive post-poll role,” Panruti said.

The DMK, for all its irritants with the Congress, “may ultimately settle for the Congress”, as both parties have no other option, However, DMK circles in Chennai indicated that the party patriarch M Karunanidhi is “very angry with the Congress” on issues from the Sri Lankan Tamils crisis, FDI to not having bailed out the DMK leaders in the 2G spectrum scam cases. Hence, he is mulling a third front option in Tamil Nadu, with the CPM and the actor-politician Vijayakant-led DMDK. The BJP has not been successful as yet in clinching a deal with any of the Dravidian parties,
BJP’s post-Thackeray spin in M’rashtra crucial

Circa 2014: Maharashtra will see polls not just to Parliament but also to the State Assembly; while the ruling Democratic Front comprising key parties Congress and Nationalist Congress Party will not deviate from their present stand, it is the BJP that has decided to adopt a wait and watch policy.
With Shiv Sena (SS) chief Bal Thackeray passing away and BJP distancing itself from the long-time ally in recent times, the BJP think tank will now decide future course of action on the basis of the combination that emerges between the two-regional parties - SS and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS.)
If the regional parties come together, then BJP would be in no position to dictate terms; but in case it continues to walk separate paths, BJP would try to drive a hard bargain with both.

Telangana issue key to Cong ties in AP

With the lone Majlis MP Asaduddin Owaisi severing ties with the Congress in Andhra Pradesh and the UPA at the Centre, the Congress in the state has become lonely, literally and metaphorically.

APCC, the State unit of the Congress, which gave 32 MPs out of the 42 Lok Sabha seats from Andhra Pradesh, might find hard to repeat the same during the 2014 elections, due to the changed circumstances.

In the run up to 2014 elections, the only possible combination of Congress and TRS seems to have run into rough weather with the TRS announcing that it would fight the elections on its own. Congress may have to face a rout in coastal and Rayalaseema region at the hands of a surging YSR Congress and TRS and allied Telangana forces in the Telangana region. Even though YSRC has announced that it will not join a BJP-led NDA government at the Centre, it is not averse to the idea of supporting a more secular UPA.

With the Telangana Rashtra Samithi  deciding to go alone in the 2014 elections, and only Loksatta, CPM and MIM parties favouring a unified state, Congress will have to spell out its stand on Telangana before seeking some working arrangement with any political party.

Sanjay Pandey, Prabhat Sharan, Saibal Gupta, J B S Umanadh, Abhay Kumar, M R Venkatesh contributed reporting.

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