The stage is almost set for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections and battle lines are nearly drawn. Major parties of the ruling classes – whether ‘national’ parties like the Congress and the BJP or the host of regional parties wielding power in various states – are giving finishing touches to their battle plans. The contours of potential pre- or post-poll coalitions have also begun suggesting themselves amidst ongoing political realignments. Several possibilities that were being speculated for quite some time have started taking shape, setting off a chain of rapid political developments.
The only point that now remains to be settled is the schedule - whether elections are to be held ahead of schedule along with the next round of Assembly elections due later this year or we have to wait till early next year when the present Lok Sabha completes its five-year term. Considering the current pace of political developments, it is entirely possible that the Congress may go for elections ahead of the scheduled time.
The BJP has made up its mind to have Modi as its mascot for the coming Lok Sabha elections. The BJP leadership must have anticipated the consequences that followed, like the revolt of Advani and the exit of the JD(U) from the NDA, but the fact that the party still fell for the Modi gamble clearly shows the party’s desperation. Almost all poll surveys have been pointing to the fact that while the Congress is surely losing ground, the BJP is not gaining in proportion. It now remains to be seen whether the Sangh Parivar’s desperate gamble to play the Modi tune to improve the party’s poll prospect pays off or proves counterproductive. Advani and his supporters are openly apprehensive that the BJP’s decision to act in haste in pressing the Modi button may only leave the party with the destiny of repenting at leisure.
As far as the Congress is concerned, the only way the party can really hope to gain or salvage anything is by cornering or isolating the BJP or damaging its prospects. In states where there are multi-corner contests or where the Congress has to contend primarily with non-BJP parties, the Congress has little chances of improving its position. So far, the Congress has been successful in dethroning the BJP in as many as four states, directly in Uttarakhand and Karnataka and indirectly in Jharkhand and Bihar. Unlike the BJP, the Congress also has developed the skill of doing business with mutually opposed parties in several states – like the SP and BSP in UP, and now the RJD and JD(U) in Bihar, or for that matter, the TMC and CPI(M) in West Bengal.
Between the Congress and the BJP, or a possible UPA-III and NDA-III if you will, hangs the prospect of the mythical ‘third front’. The two traditional pillars of a third front – a sizable non-Congress non-BJP party of the Janata Dal variety and a numerically significant Left bloc – have weakened over the years. While the Janata Dal has been splintered into as many as four parties, the Left bloc has lost in numbers. Moreover, having failed miserably in its 2009 attempt to cobble a ‘third front’, the CPI(M) has now become wary of making another experiment. The new noise of a ‘federal front’ comprising a disparate group of ruling regional parties like the TMC in West Bengal, JD(U) in Bihar and BJD in Odisha is more ‘sound and fury’ with little substance. Of course, with the chances of an NDA-III or a UPA-III looking rather slim at the moment, the rise of a somewhat different post-poll coalition arrangement cannot be ruled out.
With the possibilities of multipolar contests in many states and the Congress, BJP and many ruling regional parties all suffering from serious crisis of credibility, the coming Lok Sabha elections promise to be much more competitive than most of our bourgeois ideologues would like. Of course, the BJP and the Congress would try their level best in the coming days to reduce the election to a pro- and anti-Modi contest. The revolutionary Left must counter this game-plan of the ruling classes with vigorous preparations for a well-organised election campaign that must assert the growing strength of people’s struggles as the most reliable bulwark of resistance against corporate fascism. The determination to roll back the plundering pro-corporate policies and secure greater rights for the deprived and oppressed people must be the defining spirit of Left intervention in the coming electoral battle.