When chief Minister Tarun Gogoi was asked ahead of the 2011 Assembly Elections whether the Congress was considering an alliance with Badruddin Ajmal of the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), he famously answered: “Ajmal who?”
So far, there seems little chance of a Congress-AIUDF alliance. If they had tied up, the Congress might have lost some ground but it would have been a formidable force. Instead, it is the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which is going on an alliance spree – it has tied up with the Asom Gana Parishad, the Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) and some other independents.
As alliances go, the BJP’s is a strong one. In the previous Assembly’s tenure, the BPF had supported the Gogoi government till 2014. After the riots in Kokrajhar, an area controlled by BPF, the party began to get uneasy. It lost Kokrajhar in the Lok Sabha polls of 2014 and since then, a section of the Bodo leadership has been wanting to move away from the Congress. For both the AIUDF and the BPF, the motivation to defeat Gogoi is strong. But, while the BPF can visualise tying up with the BJP, this cannot be countenanced for the AIUDF. Hence, the BJPis trying to unite as many Hindu groups as possible, while hoping the Muslims are divided.
Mathematically, if the Congress and the CPI (M) get together and manage to replicate their earlier vote share, nothing can stop them from forming the next government. This cannot happen for two reasons. One, a formal alliance has been all but ruled out by the CPI (M), although Congress MLAs told party Vice President Rahul Gandhi they’d be decimated without an alliance with the Left. Two, some partners in the former Left Front government, like the Forward Bloc and SUCI, and even elements in the CPI (M) are leaving in droves to join the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC). The latter started with 184 seats in 2011 and this has gone up to 195 today, the result of defection and by-election victories. An informal alliance will have only limited success. How the Left performs in Bengal in the day of Kanhaiya Kumar and sedition, given the ground work done by Trinamool, is the question. TMC is working especially hard in the Dooars area, hoping to make some inroads into the Gorkha vote. As for the BJP, it continues to matter little in Bengal.
In 2006, as well as in 2011, Congress and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam contested together. But, between the two elections and the one in 2016, there fell a shadow – the telecom spectrum allocation scam, that led to a jail term for DMK supremo Karunanidhi’s daughter, Kanimozhi.
The alliance broke. The two forces have joined again because the opposition knows that if it continues to fight against each other, it is the Jayalalithaa-led AIADMK that will sweep, for a seventh time. But, it is an enfeebled Congress jumping into the field. Jayalalithaa doesn’t seem in any mood to have significant alliance partners. The BJP, with almost no political capital of its own, is trying to piggyback on DMDK’s Vijayakanth, with whom they had an alliance in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Vijayakanth is being wooed by both DMK and BJP and is taking time to decide. There are mixed feelings about the extent of the vote he commands. Tamil Nadu has a tradition of voting in the opposition. Could this time be the exception?
The 2011 Assembly elections were won by the All India N Rangasamy Congress and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, in alliance. But, immediately after the election, when Rangasamy realised he had the strength to become the chief minister on his own, he dumped a startled Jayalalithaa and crowned himself. After that, he has been cosying up to the BJP but the latter hasn’t paid much attention to him. He gains little by siding with Bharatiya Janata Party – only his independence.
The Congress-DMK has announced an extension of its Tamil Nadu alliance. Both parties have traditional strengths in the tiny Union Territory. It is possible that if he doesn’t watch out, Rangasamy could be confronted with an unpleasant surprise. Caste is not an issue in Puducherry, so the debate is likely to centre on development. Rangasamy will claim the greatest victory lies in getting Puducherry counted in the list of Smart Cities and getting funds from France invested here so that the city benefits. But ,the Opposition is going to target the lack of development in the rural areas, issues of water, power and roads. In many ways, national bookmarks will not weight down the discourse in Puducherry where the campaign will be purely on the development of the Union Territory.
As in Tamil Nadu, the opposition is usually voted to power in Kerala. The Congress-United Democratic Front came to power with a majority of two MLAs in 2011. Despite hard work by the CM, it has not been able to increase its base. KM Mani of the Mani group had to resign in the wake of corruption charges. Its alliance partners are still together but reluctantly. The CPI (M)-Left Democratic Front (LDF) also has infighting problems but is getting some support from small, erstwhile allies. K R Gowri, at 96, has rejoined, for instance. The Ezhava community which had drifted away is making as if to return to it. The wild card is the BJP – on the other hand, maybe not such a wild one. Both PM Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah have visited leaders of the Ezhava community several times at functions to which CPI (M) and Congress leaders were pointedly not invited. But, caste in Kerala does not think the same way as caste groups think elsewhere in India. Hence, an LDF victory cannot be ruled out.