Ritesh K Srivastava
After the peaceful conclusion of polling for the Lok Sabha Elections 2009 with millions of voters exercising their franchise, the country appears as perplexed as ever.
Various exit polls and surveys, conducted shortly after the polling ended, to get a pulse of the voter mood, have predicted a fractured verdict.
Clearly, neither of the two big political parties BJP and Congress or even the aspirant Third Front is anywhere close to touching the magic number of 272 to be able to form a government at the centre.
The uncertain political environment has sent jitters across the major players and eventually started a number game (Mission 272) to woo maximum support of regional parties and independents to cross the winning line.
Although, no one knows what is sealed inside the EVMs, the fate of a billion-plus populace now hangs in the balance as the situation has provided ample scope for the fence-sitters (the regional parties) to play the bargain game.
Both the Congress and the BJP, knowing clearly well that they will fall short of getting the required number, have sent their master strategists and called for crucial meetings to lure regional parties in a bid to outsmart each other in the power game.
However, the fence-sitters, who have now become an indispensable feature of Indian politics, seem to be taking advantage of the situation and clearly weighing all options available.
As the clocks ticks, the political activities (horse-trading) in the corridors of power is likely to gain momentum with several parties still keeping their cards close to their hearts till the final result is declared.
The next 48-hours are likely to be very crucial for the major players, as all eyes would be focussed on the regional parties, whose possible switch to any particular side would change the course of the entire nation at least for five years or till the next elections.
Among the regional players, the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Mayawati-led BSP will be the two parties which will demand a bigger say at the national level.
Both NCP chief Sharad Pawar and BSP supremo Mayawati harbour ambition to become the Prime Minister and will pull any trick out of their hat to achieve this.
However, in the event of any arrangement failing to materialise their long-cherished dream, the two would probably try to secure the next best deal for their party.
The JD-S chief HD Deve Gowda, who is the main architect of the Third Front, has already said he has no objection to Mayawati becoming the PM.
Mulayam Singh Yadav’s SP, which is now a part of the Fourth Front including Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP and Lalu Yadav’s RJD, is likely to go with the Third Front owing to a strained relationship with the Congress party. Or they may extract a heavy price for their support.
Even after declaring their unwavering support to the UPA, the moves of the RJD and LJP are undecided ever since the two contested polls in Bihar independent of the Congress.
Meanwhile, the Telangana Rashtriya Samiti (TRS), which has for long championed the cause of a separate Telangana state, has already announced joining the BJP-led NDA.
TRS, which was a key constituent of the Congress-led alliance party, inclined towards the Third Front and finally pledged support to the NDA.
Similarly, the Orissa Chief Minister and the BJD chief Naveen Patnaik ended his 11-year-old marriage with the BJP over the Kandhmal issue and showed inclination towards the Third Front possibly to consolidate his position in the state assembly polls.
However, he is also likely to return to the BJP-fold after the declaration of final results, though Congress has made major overtures towards him.
Interestingly, fissures are also appearing in the Third Front, which was evident after the JD-S leader HD Kumaraswamy met with Congress president Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi fuelling speculations of a possible post-poll alliance.
The JD-S has in the past ditched the BJP as well in Karnataka.
AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa, who is assured of a major comeback in Tamil Nadu, has still not broken her silence which is keeping the Congress and the BJP on their toes.
Jayalalithaa, whose party is an important player of the Third Front, has been a strong contender for the PM’s post with Communist backing. But it’s still unclear which side would her party move considering AIADMK’s stakes in the state.
In Kerala, UDF is set to defeat the Left led LDF, hence bringing a major change in the state’s political scenario. The Congress-led UDF is predicted to get 15 seats.
Just like the Third Front, cracks have also appeared in the UPA and NDA as well.
Sharad Pawar, a close ally of the Congress party, was seen rubbing shoulders with the CPI general secretary Prakash Karat during the elections.
In a strategic move, Prakash Karat has himself said that his party is not averse to Congress party forming a government at the Centre if all options to prevent BJP from coming to power fail.
PM Manmohan Singh recently calling Nitish Kumar and Rahul Gandhi praising his government’s performance in Bihar has added another interesting twist to the Mission 272.
And now Nitish has pulled out a joker saying he will go with whoever gives special status to Bihar.
Amidst hot bargaining, what has been interesting is that this has been one of the most unpredictable electoral battles in the world’s largest democracy. The Election Commission also deserves kudos for conducting free, fair and peaceful elections.
Whatever the verdict, one thing is clear that India needs an accountable and strong leadership that can protect the sovereignty and integrity of the nation and usher it into a new era of peace, progress and development.