The UPA in its second edition after 2009 polls has only a few allies, namely, the Trinamul Congress, DMK, NCP, National Conference etc.
At present, the Congress Party’s relations with all of them are severely strained and a separation could lead to an accidental election. Spiralling inflation, a spate of scams and loss of public esteem are making the Congress increasingly an electoral liability for its allies as is evident from its recent defeats in byelections across the country.
Further, the Congress’ attempts to hold its allies responsible for the Central government’s marked failings — the NCP for price rise, the DMK for corruption — have made them chary of its intentions. Through these dubious attempts, the Congress has come across as an unreliable ally violating “coalition dharma” at will. That this has stoked fears among Congress’ allies is evident from their recent actions and utterances.
Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamul Congress with 18 MPs in the Lok Sabha threatened to pull out from the Central government in protest against the recent petrol price hike. With a comfortable majority of her own in the state Assembly, Ms Banerjee does not need the Congress. Mercurial Mamata will keep the Congress on tenterhooks.
DMK leader M. Karunanidhi, whose party also has 18 Lok Sabha MPs, is extremely angry with the Congress leadership and holds it responsible for the continued incarceration of his daughter K. Kanimozhi, A. Raja and others even as he believes that the Congress has pulled out all the stops to prevent P. Chidambaram from being investigated in the 2G scam probe.
A wounded and wily Karunanidhi is biding his time to strike at the Congress at an opportune time.
NCP supremo Sharad Pawar is panicky after his party’s defeat in the last month’s byelection to Khadakwasla Assembly constituency that falls in his family’s pocket borough Baramati parliamentary constituency represented by Mr Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule. NCP has quickly realised that the party has no future in an alliance with the Congress and has begun exploring other potential alliance partners in Maharashtra.
Even Congress-NC relations have soured recently. The public spat between the Jammu & Kashmir chief minister, Omar Abdullah, and the Central government over his plans to withdraw the Armed Forces Special Powers Act from parts of the state has led to a confrontation between the alliance partners.
Today, the Congress’ relations with its allies are so fragile that only a minor trigger is required for a rupture of the alliance. Even if they keep the UPA government afloat for some more time for their own selfish reasons, come next parliamentary elections, they are bound to migrate to other alliances to brighten their electoral prospects.
And if some of them choose to stay with the Congress, the terms of engagement will favour them heavily.
This article appeared in Asian Age and Deccan Chronicle dated November 10.