Sleight of Hand


It is that time of the year when Dorab Sopariwalla, Mahesh Rangarajan and Yogendra Yadav are most sought, for their analysis and predictions on election outcome.  Even with the General Elections couple of years away, this year will witness key electoral battles in the states of West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Assam.

Chief Election Commissioner Qureshi announced the poll dates yesterday with the results slated for declaration on the date the Brits dread, the 13th of May.  Even if we are in the midst of the World Cup to be followed by IPL, I am sure that the elections hold considerable interest for the common man as well as the political parties.

The elections in these four states is unique in the sense that it is essentially a one-horse race as far as national parties are concerned whereas it has existential significance for some regional parties.

South, especially Tamil Nadu and Kerala has never been BJP’s happy hunting ground while in Bengal it is a chance for the Left front to prove it’s political relevancy. That leaves Congress as the only party which should be interested in the electoral fate of all the four states going to the polls.

The polls are coming in the backdrop of serious allegations against the Congress led Government on corruption and failure of governance as evidenced by higher levels of inflation.  On the question of corruption, the Prime Minister has stopped short of an open admission that as long as he runs a coalition government, he wouldn’t be able to fix the menace.

The electoral results are important for Congress not only as a  referendum (though it may be loathe to admit it) but also as an opportunity for it to assert itself as a force to reckon with in a state like Tamil Nadu.

For long Congress in it’s bid to keep the BJP out has been subservient to DMK whose patriarch M Karunanidhi has spun a web of deceit, corruption, populism and nepotism around governance. For a man of impeccable personal integrity, Dr Manmohan Singh should be blaming his stars for having to share dais, worst still, even eulogize Karunanidhi who was famously “appreciated” for scientific corruption by the Sarkaria Commission.

Though Karunanidhi runs his Government at Chennai with support from Congress, he has staunchly refused to share power at the State level.  At the same time he is adamant about the choice of ministers and portfolios for his party at the Centre. As a political relationship, nothing can be more unequal than this.

Even if one concedes the fact that in the times that we are in, political alliances are formations of compulsions and not congruence of principles, it must hurt the Congress pride as a party with a history of 125 years, to be treated as a junior partner.


Congress must feel that it is between a rock and a hard place. Even with the taint of serious corruption, DMK remains it’s best political bet as far as electoral alliance is concerned. It should hope that keeping up the ante on the 2G spectrum would finally force the cunning Karunanidhi to relent and offer some post-poll alliance in Government formation.

It will be politically naïve for Congress to tie-up with ADMK.  Not only is ‘Amma’ unreliable it may be unable to play the “distancing act” on corruption charges convincingly with the electorate.

The discussions on seat-sharing have created serious friction between Congress and DMK. The developments on this front would be exciting to watch.

Coming to think of it, Tamil Nadu with nearly half the number of Parliamentary seats as Uttar Pradesh must figure very prominently in the agenda of it’s “poll mascot” Rahul Gandhi.  For too long in my view, the Congress has been obsessed with Uttar Pradesh, primarily due to the political lineage of the Nehru family.

No doubt the only credible challenger for Rahul Gandhi is Mayawati, but I am sure RahulG realizes that he needs a strong treasury bench for his  dreams of long-term occupation of the PM Gaddi.

The congress worker must be wondering as to whether the “hand” that gives can also successfully “take” it’s due share.

Rahul Gandhi knows more than anyone else the sleight of hand that he needs to bring into play in dealing with the wily Karunanidhi.

Can Rahul do the magic ?


About hariharanbond
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