Mahagathbandhan feasibility and Congress’ fate
Mahagathbandhan (MGB)- that is the word in every political pundit’s mouth. Some of the “neutral” media persons have started writing about how MGB should be formed to take on BJP or rather Modi. That it has to be 1 on 1 fight in each of the 543 seats with the strongest party getting to fight BJP. That they are salivating at the prospect of Modi v/s All tears of their mask of being neutral – but that is for some other time. Everyone from the media to the political parties themselves are in this only to stop 1 man – they wouldn’t mind BJP forming the govt with Modi not being the PM and that is their 2nd target, if their ambition of forming the govt doesn’t fructify.
Coming to MGB most of the regional parties want to come together because for some like BSP, NCP, RJD, NC it has become a battle for their survival. They fear they could be wiped off again which would then make them irrelevant. Some like TMC, TRS have a very stronghold in their region and would again win handsomely but want MGB so that they can wield their influence and have a shot at getting to the PM chair or get major ministries. While all these regional parties want to come together the major point of contention is going to be accommodating Congress. TRS may not even join such a front while TMC would want Congress to play second fiddle which may hurt the ego of the dynasty. Other parties have been/are at the beck and call of Sonia and so wouldn’t mind Cong playing the dominant role/Rahul being their PM candidate.
Given all this, let us see if MGB is even feasible and how the parties would go about stitching it. As mentioned above TRS may not join at all and be part of this – they may consider supporting if the post-poll scenario throws a hung parliament if they could see something substantial for them. Mamata would want to pitch herself for the highest chair but may climb down and be a part of this as she has been more vocal against Modi and talking about sacrifices and even building bridges with her arch-rival the Communists. The other parties would obviously want MGB and so this looks more feasible. However, that is NOT the point as @imac_too handle would say.
SP, BSP, NCP and RJD would not only want to be in MGB but would also want Cong in it. But, when it comes to seat sharing may want to part away with very little. 2 reasons – 1) They know that they can only have an influence on the govt formation, in case of MGB coming to power, if they have enough seats and for which they need to first contest at least as many seats and 2) Whatever the supposedly unbiased media say RaGa v/s Modi would go only 1 way and hence more seats to Cong could mean winnability coming down and eventually less seats for MGB which would be detrimental to govt. formation or keeping Modi at bay which is their main intent.
So, where it leaves the congress, the darling of the Lutyens media and Intellects. Let us split the states into 4 main categories – states where MGB (which includes Cong) would be stronger going by the arithmetic; where Cong is in direct fight with BJP; states where the powerful regional party for now is keeping distance with both BJP/Cong; NE/smaller states/UT accounting for very less LS seats. While doing this analysis I realized that Cong on its own is not strong any more except for say Punjab and to some extent Kerala, some may claim the same for Rajasthan, but I would like to give BJP the lead here as well given that this is for LS and Modi factor would be a huge one. In this analysis I shall be more generous to them, but the reality may be far harsher.
Category 1 – MGB (Bihar, J&K – less seats though, K’taka, Kerala, Maha, TN, UP and WB) as such may look stronger on paper as all parties, assuming Left would join them given the clarion call by Mamata that everyone has to make sacrifices, fighting against 1 party BJP should get more votes logically. These contribute more than half the seats out of 543. The challenge for Cong is to extract seats though which looks highly unlikely given their electoral performance in these states except to some extent Kerala and K’taka. My prediction is that they wouldn’t get to fight in double digit seats in any of these states except for K’taka (situation may change if HDK changes tack). They could end up fighting just 70-80 seats out of these. SP and BSP would want to fight in at least 30 seats each in UP, Mamata may not part with more than 5 or 6 as she could sweep even if she goes alone, RJD may not want to lose their grip further and it would worsen if JD (U) comes back. Maha may see them getting good share of seats but could spell trouble if Shiv Sena joins MGB. Even if we assume 50-60% strike rate which is a very high strike rate but could be a possibility as the allies could transfer their votes they may win only around 35-40 seats out of huge chunk of 300+ seats.
Category 2 – Direct Fight (Assam, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Guj, Haryana, HP, Jharkhand, MP, Punjab, Raj, U’khand, Delhi) – Some of these states they may have some junior partners like JMM in J’Khand but largely they would be fighting directly against BJP (NDA in Punjab). They could get to fight the majority of the 160 seats here. Since 2013, Cong has slipped rapidly when pitched directly against BJP/Modi and I don’t see that changing even with all the hype of hugs and winks and the claim that RaGa has come of age. Modi’s popularity has not diminished, though MSM may want us to believe so, to the extent he would lose in a direct fight to Cong. With these reasons, I don’t see them winning more than 40% of these seats – so, could win around 60 seats – as I said I am being generous here to assume best case scenario for them. As of now, AAP seem to be out of MGB and hence in Delhi and Punjab they will very well be in the fray and spoil Cong chances even further.
Category 3 – AP, Orissa and Telangana – 63 seats – The regional players here could stay out of both MGB/NDA. Andhra could change with TDP changing spots. Even if TDP allies with Congress/MGB I don’t see Cong winning more than 10 seats (very much on the higher side). The most could come from Andhra and they may not even open their account in Orissa and Telangana. AP has Jagan and if Pawan Kalyan too jumps into the fray and/or if they join hands or go with BJP or if TDP doesn’t join MGB this number could come down by half.
Category 4 – NE and all small states/UT not covered in the above categories – 17 seats – They could win around 5 seats here.
So, where do they end up? With anywhere between 110-120 seats? Will that be sufficient for them to get their Prince to rule – highly unlikely. Is this why their senior leader and former FM PC said Cong would like to triple the seats that they have now – a very low/modest target but closer to reality? This is the best-case scenario for the Cong which doesn’t look rosy.
This is just the short-term picture. In my opinion conceding so much space to the regional parties would erode their party organization even further, frustrate more people who could quit, demoralize their supporters. Hence, this will hurt them more in the long run and will take more time for them to regroup and come back to power on their own or even reach 2009 levels. Will it then make sense for them to go alone and try to build their organization for the long haul instead of some immediate gains? The Lutyens media wouldn’t think so as they don’t care for Cong but only for themselves. They want Modi out so that they can gain/bargain even if it at the expense of the party they are supporting. The intellects would try to convince their master with the claim that they have to stay afloat and be relevant now and hence should take this route.
There are enough people with brains in Cong to show them the mirror but most of them unfortunately stay subservient to the dynasty and go with the flow and the rest would be the elders who wouldn’t want to care too much into the future. Eventually, this could lead to the slogan that Modi coined “Cong-Mukt Bharat” to come true – where the Cong is not wiped out physically but the Cong ideology, their way of thinking gets routed out. I am not complaining. However, having said that, it would be a nightmare if MGB comes to power even with a depleted Congress. So many parties with 20-30 odd seats each controlling the govt, each fighting for their own benefits could ruin the country. That again is a separate topic of discussion for some other time.