NEW DELHI (TIP): The assemblage on one platform of leaders from parties other than the Congress and the BJP is no precursor to another third front experiment. It’s at best an anti-BJP, non-Congress ideological bulwark against the ‘divisive idea’ that’s Narendra Modi. The participants at the conference knew that wherever possible, pre-poll alliances were an essential prerequisite to block the BJP’s prime ministerial nominee. A split secular vote in UP and Bihar was what Modi desired to garner the numbers he needs for a shot at power in Delhi. The optimism might prove to be misplaced. But it’s believed that in either of these states — accounting for 120 seats in the Lok Sabha — the Muslim vote would substantially gravitate towards an alliance that includes the Congress. UP is a doubtful case. But regardless of its composition, a pre-election pact is inevitable in Bihar. The Congress indeed is cowering under massive anti-incumbency in many parts of the country. But its catalyst value cannot be ignored even in West Bengal where, again, the party is a big player that can help its senior partner strike big.
Like in Bihar, where it has to choose between Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) and Lalu Prasad’s RJD, the Congress in Bengal can play the Left against Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool that remained unrepresented at the meeting. Nitish foretold the scenario by commenting that leaders posing for cameras should remain together to the extent possible: “I’m saying that because we know one or two will disappear.” A trifle confounding at first glance, the presence on the stage of some former NDA allies and at least one UPA member, the NCP of Sharad Pawar, was actually a no-brainer. Rather than sowing the kernel of a third formation that boomeranged to the Congress’s benefit in 2009, the leaders’ immediate objective was to firewall Modi’s high voltage offensive with a flip-side political narrative — the basis for which was laid by Nitish in Rajgir. If Modi remains short of the 200- plus he needs to become PM, some of BJP’s ex-allies may return to the NDA fold. The possibility of a compromise candidate could, in fact, open vast post-election opportunities for the saffron outfit. But the first invite for forming the government — if decisions of past Presidents are any guide — will go to the largest pre-poll formation. The 2014 polls, therefore, will be as much about alliances as about Modi’s candidature that disqualifies his party from making friends and winning over rivals.