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Political parties as strange bedfellows

Political parties as strange bedfellows
Highlights

Political alliances used to shape up on the eve of elections. But, defections and political realignment of late have become an all-weather phenomenon in Indian democracy. It is no longer a strange spectacle to belligerently criticise each other what with foes turning friends in an overnight development. 

Changing political bedfellows to suit a particular political situation has become a norm in Indian politics. It is no more an exception to the rule. So if TRS and BJP ‘discover’ bonhomie, it’s nothing cataclysmic. But, there are many ifs and buts. There can be many a slip between the cup and the lip. The possibility of a tie-up between the two is a product of personal ambitions of individual leaders in both the parties rather than based on any sound political strategy

Political alliances used to shape up on the eve of elections. But, defections and political realignment of late have become an all-weather phenomenon in Indian democracy. It is no longer a strange spectacle to belligerently criticise each other what with foes turning friends in an overnight development.

Politics seems to be rewriting laws of physics. The Newton’s first law of motion says that every body continues to be in the state of rest or of uniform motion unless acted upon by an external force. But, this theory of inertia has become redundant in present-day politics.

We are talking about the growing speculation that TRS is to join the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). This has been in air for a long time now. But, the imperative of fighting GHMC elections had pushed it into hibernation only to resurface now with renewed vigour.

Ultimately, it may happen or may not. But, one cannot rule it out as politics is witness to many strange bedfellows. one need cry over this political development in case it happens, though such an eventuality has far-reaching ramifications for political landscape in the two Telugu States.

Opponents may call it political opportunism. But, who is free from such a political expediency. The ongoing rumblings within the CPI (M) are over the possibility to ally with Congress in West Bengal even as they battle it out against each other in Kerala. The possible gain for Bengal comrades may prove to be fatal to those in Kerala despite the possibility of them returning to power in God’s Own Country.

The TDP has a history of switching on and off its loyalties to the saffron brigade. N Chandrababu Naidu, who once saw in Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi a destroyer of India, now believes that he alone can save the nation. How long this belief will hold is the billion dollar question. It is ditto with TRS, which has a remarkable history of changing political loyalties between Congress and TDP. Thus no political party can claim sanctity any longer.

Changing political bedfellows to suit a particular political situation has become a norm in Indian politics. It is no more an exception to the rule. So if TRS and BJP ‘discover’ bonhomie, it’s nothing cataclysmic. But, there are many ifs and buts. There can be many a slip between the cup and the lip. The possibility of a tie-up between the two is a product of personal ambitions of individual leaders in both the parties rather than based on any sound political strategy.

People no less than K Kavitha have time and again expressed a public desire to join the NDA. The influential section of State BJP leadership, especially those who aspire for a ministerial berth in KCR Cabinet in case of an alliance, are obviously not willing to dismiss the speculation altogether.

The TRS has a political idiom to defend if it chooses to go with NDA. This is what KCR precisely did when he comfortably aligned with different parties at different points in time. Each served his political unrest. KCR told many a time that he is even ready to kiss a caterpillar or hug a leper for the sake of Telangana. This idiom was used to give legitimacy to the party’s political expediency or even political ambitions.

He will perhaps advocate the same theory should he opt to sail with the NDA. But joining NDA need not necessarily be the precondition to extract more from the Centre. Andhra Pradesh could neither get a special status nor anything exclusive despite NDA ruling the State. In fact, even the commitments of the State Reorganisation Act for the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh were partially met, at best.

Even Naidu expressed public displeasure over Centre's apathy to Andhra Pradesh. What is the guarantee that Telangana will get a better deal if TRS joins the NDA? For that matter, the Telangana government always maintained cordial relations with the Union government barring occasional political acrimony to suit a particular political moment.

Whether or not the TRS joins the NDA, there are also reports that KCR is believed to be toying with the idea of offering Rajya Sabha seat to M Venkaiah Naidu from Telangana as a goodwill gesture. Perhaps, there may be a strategy behind such a move, if it holds good. The TRS has strength to get only one seat in the biennial elections to the Upper House.

It will certainly not show magnanimity to offer the seat to the major opposition party, the Congress, for second seat though the party backed its candidate in the past. But, the TRS can win the second seat only with the support of MLAs, who have since defected.

These defectors should face the anti-defection law in case they violate the party whip and vote for TRS candidate in the Rajya Sabha elections. In case TRS extends support to Venkaiah Naidu, it can hit two birds with one stone. The party can extend the olive branch to the BJP and ensure that the defected Legislators are not disqualified from the House.

But, both TRS and BJP will have a lot to explain. The TRS targeted Venkaiah Naidu personally during and after the Telangana movement, bar the odd praise here and there. The stature of Venkaiah Naidu will also be undermined as it sends a signal that this veteran BJP leader has authored the BJP–TRS alliance for his own political survival. Such a thing will be unbecoming of a leader of his stature.

Ironically, there is a precedent to this. The Congress offered CPI (M) a Rajya Sabha seat as part of a pre-poll tie-up in 2004. The CPI(M) dropped the idea of fielding veteran Marxist Sitaram Yechury and instead sent him to the august House from West Bengal in order to avoid personal political embarrassment to Yechury.

The BJP should keep this in mind before accepting the TRS proposal, if any. Then comes the problem of vote bank politics. Any party thinks twice before forging a tie-up with BJP due to the fear of losing Muslim vote. Muslims constitute a sizable chunk of many constituencies in the State, which has over 12 per cent Muslim population.

In fact, the TRS has the experience of getting a considerable Muslim vote in the recent GHMC polls despite MIM’s continuing sway over the Muslim vote in the city. Any friendship with BJP will mean losing out on Muslim vote.

Finally, the 2019 polls are still far. As such, there is no hurry for political alignment or realignment. The BJP has to take a call on divorcing TDP. Meanwhile Modi’s popularity is waning. The electoral mandate in Delhi, Bihar and the by-polls in many States indicate a reversal of fortunes for the BJP-led NDA.

The TRS has to take a huge political gamble in this fast evolving national political landscape. The political situation is pregnant with myriad possibilities with the political fragility in parties further giving a fillip to it.

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