BJP on the hunt for partners Politics of alliance

A visit by former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj to the State-This is what is in the pipeline. Cut to the present and there is PB Acharya, an experienced Manipur hand and rewind a few days back and there were former Union Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha and Spokesperson Prakash Javadekar. Clearly the BJP seems intent on making their presence felt in Manipur and this is something interesting given the fact that the Congress which is heading the UPA Government at Delhi has been maintaining a strategic distance from the going ons in Manipur. Union Home Minister P Chidambaram did come here on a two day visit but he came here more as a leader of the Congress rather than the Home Minister of the country and herein lies a tale. Election to the 10th Assembly election, scheduled sometime in February next year is obviously the reason why Imphal has become the destination for the BJP leaders and the record creating more than 100 days economic blockade is obviously the icing on the cake. Just the right moment to make a political point or two and while the question of whether the saffron party will be able to make an impact at the hustings or not will remain in the realm of conjecture, the point that the BJP has rolled out its election campaign must have been taken note of by the other political parties. The BJP has nothing to lose by pitching in with their own brand of politics. By virtue of leading the Opposition NDA at Delhi, it is but natural to see the BJP helming the attempt to forge a united Opposition against the Congress and the Left parties at the next hustings. This is a leeway not enjoyed by the Nationalist Congress Party nor the Trinamul Congress. If the Ram Temple and Advani’s Rath Yatra helped the BJP to emerge as a serious challenger to the Congress in the mid 90s, its strategy of going in for political alliances with regional political parties helped it to blow apart the hitherto held belief in the TINA (There is No Alternative) factor. While the Congress slept over the emerging regional power centres in the cow belt and the southern States, the BJP woke up to this reality and struck crucial pre-poll pacts which ultimately proved decisive at the hustings and paved the way for the first non-Congress Government at the Centre after the shortlived third front options floated by VP Singh and Chandrashekhar.

It is some sort of an irony but the politics of coalition Government which the BJP adopted as its mantra and which proved extremely fruitful may just about prove counter productive here. Pre-poll pacts with regional power centres pre-supposes the existence of a strong regional political party for example the Telugu Desam in Andhra Pradesh or the Akali Dal in Punjab. With the MPP reduced to a pale shadow of its earlier self, the BJP will not have the leverage that it found in say Andhra Pradesh or Punjab. This may just work to the advantage of the Congress. The State unit of the NCP has already proved that it is not a push over and personalities like PA Sangma and Agatha Sangma have an appeal of their own amongst the people of Manipur, but it is not as yet clear whether they will sup with the BJP in taking the fight to the Congress or will think it politically more prudent to play the wait and watch game. It is the same thing with the Trinamul Congress. The task before the Saffron party is then to decide which party to go along with. With no single party placed in a position to go it alone in the polls, the compulsion of pre-poll understanding or post-poll pact is a given (The 2007 story for the Congress is an exception rather than the rule) and deciding which political party to go along with in the election is going to be the acid test for the BJP. At the risk of indulging in a bout of crystal ball gazing exercise, the BJP will most likely be able to finalise a pre-poll pact with the MPP while striking such a deal with the RJD and others like NCP and TC may just prove to be too long a shot. Post poll alliance is a different ball game altogether. Whatever the case, what Manipur today needs is an effective Opposition no matter which political party gets the mandate to form the next Government. It would certainly be an interesting development if the voters too undergo a change in perception and start studying the upcoming election, not only on the basis of which party is most likely to form the next Government, but also along the line of how an effective Opposition can be put in place. Stability can become meaningful only in the presence of an effective Opposition. There is a lesson to be learnt from the present.