After five rounds of polling, the parties that are part of the non-NDA opposition camp have started meeting to work out a post-May 23 strategy.
The entire gameplan is to somehow stop incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi from returning to power.
Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu is camping in Delhi to meet various opposition leaders on May 21, while Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao has already visited Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala to call on his counterpart Pinarayi Vijayan.
Jab They Met: K Chandrasekhar Rao meets Pinarayi Vijayan to discuss the scenario after May 23. (Source: PTI)
All eyes are on Uttar Pradesh — in the opposition’s scheme of things, if the Uttar Pradesh mahagathbandan indeed does well in terms of seats, there is no way the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) would touch the 272 mark of simple majority. In such a scenario, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati would emerge as a strong candidate for Prime Minister. In 1993, when she had become Uttar Pradesh chief minister for the first time, then-Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao, on a tour to France, had described her as a “miracle of democracy”.
In the 2014 General Elections, the Mayawati-led BSP had drawn a blank. The 2019 polls have already seen some extraordinary visuals — Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav sharing a dais, Mayawati casting her vote in Lucknow where Samajwadi Party candidate, Poonam Sinha, is in the fray, the Yadav bahu Dimple Yadav touching the Dalit icon’s feet and Mayawati issuing an appeal to people to vote for Sonia and Rahul Gandhi from Amethi and Raebareli respectively.
Each of these visuals has a history and future.
Come May 23, if there is a hung house, a lot of things will start unfolding.
It's all about respect: Samajwadi Party's Dimple Yadav touching BSP chief Mayawati's feet at a recent public rally. (Source: PTI)
On her part, Mayawati has been playing her cards well — she sensed the potential of leading a public campaign and resigned from the Rajya Sabha in 2017 to emerge as a leader at the national level and force the opposition to consider her credentials after Nitish Kumar switched sides. Mayawati has proved again and again that she has the ability to galvanise crowds and spit fire on atrocities against Dalits.
But the big question is how the old Brahminical establishment of the Congress would lend a helping hand to her. In December, she had a quiet dinner with Sonia and Rahul, where she had reportedly ruled out accommodating the grand old party in the mahagathbandan but offered to extend her help in Amethi and Raebareli.
Mayawati was reportedly candid in pointing out that the Dalit-Muslim-Brahmin combination’s interest in the Congress was a cause of worry for her in Uttar Pradesh — apparently, in spite of a degree of bluntness in the conversation, Sonia reportedly views her with interest on grounds of her ability to take on the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and consolidating Dalit-minority ties. In Sonia’s assessment, Mayawati’s projection will find support from many southern parties and leaders, including Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) chief MK Stalin.
Significantly, another player, Akhilesh Yadav, has already gone on record to project Mayawati as the prime ministerial candidate.
If the BJP ends up falling short of 200 Lok Sabha seats, Delhi has a potential of turning into a bazaar of sorts.
Naveen Patnaik, Jagan Mohan Reddy and K Chandrashekhar Rao would be most sought after. Rao has already made it clear that he is for a non-NDA, non-Congress government.
The Great Political Bazaar: Delhi could turn into a market of sorts if the BJP falls short of 200 seats. (Source: PTI)
If he can mobilise regional parties and get a bloc of 160 seat holders, the Congress will have little or no option to manoeuvre. In such a scenario, Mamata Banerjee may also like to throw her hat in the ring, along with old guards like Sharad Pawar and HD Deve Gowda.
A replay of 1996 United Front days will be on display.
The Congress will, however, try to be part of the coalition government and eye the finance and external affairs ministries.
Incidentally, Congress leaders are deeply concerned about Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal — the Congress-AAP negotiations were dictated by Pawar, Mamata and Chandrababu. Yet, Kejriwal remained adamant to extend the alliance beyond Delhi. Congress insiders insist that a four-three arrangement for Delhi in favour of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was a done deal till the Congress realised a pattern of sorts — each time the two sides met, AAP would ask for Punjab or Goa or Haryana seat adjustment while reiterating four-three seats for Delhi. When the Congress forcefully made it clear that the alliance was restricted to Delhi, AAP asked for five seats in the national capital.
As luck would have it, some deep thinking reportedly alerted the Congress that AAP’s design was to get the Congress defeated from two seats and prepare the ground for next year’s Delhi Assembly polls.
It was a shocking revelation that sealed all doors.