Smaller parties hold key to power in many states

Smaller parties hold key to power in many states

Prime minister Naredra Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi. PTI file photo

With each seat crucial in the high-pitched 2019 Lok Sabha battle, the main contenders for power—the ruling BJP and the main Opposition are wooing allies aggressively-- more so with the smaller parties as the bigger ones have their own ambition.

Making hay while the sun shines, smaller parties are extracting their pound of flesh—bet in it Hindi heartland states--- Uttar smaller or Bihar or the deep South –Tamil Nadu or Kerala. Smaller parties are selling like hot cakes.

So if BJP has gone out of the way to woo and retain old allies like Om Prakash Rajbhar’s Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party or Anupriya Patel, Congress is also eyeing Shivpal Yadava’s Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (Lohia), which already tied with Peace Party and  Krishna Patel faction of Apna Dal.

Keep in mind that none of these parties has been the main player in the state politics where SP, BSP and RLD have joined hands together against BJP. But these smaller parties have their own areas of influence in eastern Uttar Pradesh, Firozabad and adjoining reasons.

In Bihar as well, apart from main contenders—JDU, BJP and RJD, both NDA as well as the secular grand alliance have kept smaller parties in good humour. So if Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP despite its hold having waned down considerably has bagged six of 40 Lok Sabha seats beside one Rajya Sabha seat promise for its supremo, even accidental Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, another Dalit leader in the Opposition camp has kept the RJD and Congress on toes over its demand. Former Union Minister Upendra Kushwaha’s RLSP, who switched sides from NDA, is also piling pressure for more.

UP, the cauldron of caste politics could throw up surprising results in many constituencies, where voters sway by allegiance to a particular caste. Upper castes had long back ceased to be a monolithic block. Gradually this has also happened with Other Backward Castes and Scheduled Castes. Especially in last UP assembly polls and 2014 Lok Sabha polls, BJP projected SP as Yadav party and BSP as Jatav party, while aggressively wooing smaller castes. Here is where smaller parties with their appeals limited to certain castes in limited regions, gain prominence among their respective support constituencies.

If Nishad party in UP is seeking representation for boatmen community and is bargaining from various parties, Mukesh Sahani aka Son of Mallah in Bihar who had backed the BJP-led NDA in 2014 Lok Sabha polls is now part of the secular grand alliance and giving slogan “Maacch Bhaat Khaayenge, Mahagathbandhan ko Jitayenge (will consume fish and rice, the staple diet of fishermen and will ensure the victory of the grand alliance). Mallahs are an Extremely Backward Class community. Sahani party Vikassheel Insaan Party is interestingly abbreviated as VIP.

Smaller parties like Babulal Marandi’s JVM (P) is the party of a secular grand alliance with All Jharkhand Student Union (AJSU) is part of NDA in Jharkhand, which has 14 Lok Sabha seats.

In Punjab also, smaller parties like Punjabi Ekta Party Sukhpal Khaira,  who parted ways from AAP and formed his own party and a breakaway faction of Shiromani Akali Dal like SAD (Taksali) headed by Ranjit Singh Brahmpief are in attempts to cobble together an alliance of regional parties. Aam Aadmi Party leader Bhagwant Mann had a meeting them some months back.

Similarly, in Haryana, Jannayak Janta Party (JJP), a breakaway faction of Omprakash Chautala’s INLD after a turf war in the family could spoil the game of main parties. Jind results was an example, where the BJP won despite anti-incumbency against BJP Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar. AAP recently tried for a three-party alliance with Congress and JJP. It remains to be seen what happens.

The Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP), formed before the 2018 Assembly election and headed by Khinvsar MLA and BJP rebel Hanaman Beniwal is discussing an agreement with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP), the Communist Party of India and some other smaller parties.

Smaller parties also hold their say in other states—North East or Southern India. So When BJP become part of the Umbrella alliance led by the ruling state party AIADMK,  S Ramadoss’ Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) and Vijaykanth’s DMDK and three smaller parties. 

In Kerala, where power has so far alternated between Congress-led United Democratic Front and CPI-M led Left Democratic Front,  BJP hopes to make a substantial gain on Sabarimala plank, has roped in Bharatiya Jan Dharm Seva.

While TDP is the ruling party in Andhra Pradesh and YSR Congress the main opposition party,  Pawan  Kalyan’s Jan Sena recently had a tie-up with Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party for the two states. Under the arrangement, BSP will contest three Lok Sabha and 21 assembly segments in Andhra Pradesh. Jan Sena has also a tie-up with Left parties.