April 01, 2020
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A Layman's Guide To Elections 1999

A Layman's Guide To Elections 1999
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ALLIANCES MADE EASY

OXYMORONIC as this headline may sound, we’ll give it a shot. But first, three points to keep in mind for the Big Picture: (1)The main fight is between the BJP and the Congress. (2)All the non-BJP, non-Congress parties will have to line up with one or the other, but they have residual hopes that a hung parliament might throw up a leader from their midst. (3)Deals have been done sans ideology and/or principles but with the sole purpose of an accretion of numbers. Which is also why opponents in one state find themselves in the same camp in others. Here’s a dekko at some crucial alliances: Andhra Pradesh:

A likely TDP-BJP alliance versus the Congress. A third front led by NTR’s son Harikrishna plus the CPI and CPI(M) is also in the picture, although attempts are being made by the Congress to rope in the CPI. Tamil Nadu: The BJP-DMK-MDMK-PMK-TRC-MGR AIADMK-MGR Kazhagam front will be taking on the ADMK-Congress-CPI-CPI(M)-National League alliance. The TMC has tied up with Dr Krishnaswamy’s Dalit-based party (Pudiya Tamizhagam), the JD (Gowda), RJD and IUML and is looking to provide some upsets. Maharashtra: Its a three-way contest with the BJP-Shiv Sena readying to take on the Congress—which has tied up with the Prakash Ambedkar and Gavai factions of the RPI—and the Pawar-led NCP which has tied up with the Athawale-led splinter of the RPI and the SP. The two prominent JD leaders from the state, Mrinal Gore and Madhu Dandavate, may also end up with Pawar. Uttar Pradesh: BJP vs Congress vs SP vs BSP is how it stands at the moment. If it stays this way, the BJP seems set to do well. A Congress-BSP deal, however, will mean the battle has been joined. Mulayam’s SP is under pressure but he remains confident of getting his chunk of MPs in. Bihar: BJP-Samata-JD (Sharad Yadav) attempt to dislodge Laloo’s RJD which is working out an alliance with the Congress

REBEL CORNER

HEARTBURN IN THE SANGH HEARTLAND. FOUR SITTING BJP MPs FROM MADHYA PRADESH—SUMITRA MAHAJAN, S.C. VERMA, BABURAO PARANJAPE AND SARTAJ SINGH—HAVE REFUSED TO CONTEST THE POLLS DUE TO FACTIONALISM. IN DELHI, SUSHMA SWARAJ ANNOUNCED THAT SHE WON’T BE STANDING AND NOW K.L. SHARMA IS DISINCLINED TO RECONTEST. A COMBINATION OF PIQUE AND PARANOIA, SUMS IT UP.

TOP SPIN

FOR once, diplomacy is a poll issue. The BJP’s totting up the brownie points: Clinton, Blair, the EU and ASEAN have developed a fatal pash for because we showed restraint in Kargil. We’ve kissed and made up with the Chinese and Japs. Crucially, however, Natwar Singh has been shown up as an apoplectic liberal demagogue who thinks Nehru is still alive. The Congress, of course, knows better and has been wonderfully unembarassed in pointing out that Clinton taking a "personal interest" in Kashmir means the issue’s been internationalised. Also, the BJP couldn’t get the G-8 to name the Pakis as the bad boys (Zia was always the villain for the West when the Congress was in power, remember, so what if they gave his regime more money than there are poppy plants on the Pak-Afghan border). And these saffron closet capitalists are leaning dangerously towards the US; when Indiraji was PM the NAM was taken! Who can forget Castro’s bear hug number at Vigyan Bhawan? Last, but never the least, the CPI(M) is doing some "straight talking" (again): Uncle Sam is evil, evil, evil...

WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN...

IF the Congress hadn’t got conned by the Great Indian Middle Class? Empress Sonia’s reign! Remember ’98; riding high after the assembly polls. No Bihar, Budget, Bus or Kargil. Opinion polls giving the Congress 300 seats. Old hands knew that this was as good as it got: "Topple Vajpayee, it will be seen as a mercy killing." But the party’s Babalog Brigade showered epithets upon these "discredited dinosaurs". We won’t be forgiven for forcing a mid-term poll, we’ll be seen as power-hungry, they said. Aided and abetted by the high priests of satellite TV and quality newspapers, peddling this moralistic poppycock for and on behalf of "Middle India". Sonia bought it. And brought on the opprobrium heaped on her for toppling Vajpayee when she eventually did. The MC, clearly, doesn’t want the INC at any price, thank you very much!

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