The incongruities of the opposition ‘fronts’ against the ruling NDA are becoming more evident by the day. Had it reflected a clear anti-incumbency wave, it would have been reflected in an unusually high turnout, as well as greater solidarity among the opponents. However, it is being seen to be primarily a race to harvest the anti-NDA votes with the best combination possible, even if that means trampling over the hopes of parties that might be needed for a future coalition. So, parties are allies in one state and bitter rivals in another. Good things are said from one platform and negative ones from another.
This is evident from the almost total rejection of Rahul Gandhi as the prime ministerial candidate of any possible coalition by powerful regional parties like the TMC, SP, BSP, etc. However, the Congress continues to carry on as though this is an established fact. Indeed, every party is wary of allowing any other to poach on its territory, particularly in areas where the BJP is not an immediate contender. So, the usual fellow travellers of the Congress, the Communists, are extremely miffed at Rahul Gandhi contesting from Waynad in Kerala. The situation is uniquely exemplified by the social media joke about Shatrughan Sinha being a candidate of the Congress in Patna, canvassing for the SP in Lucknow against his party, being a ‘close friend’ of Lalu Yadav in the rest of Bihar, and an admirer of Arvind Kejriwal in Delhi and ‘Didi’ in West Bengal.
The only real consolidation is that of the SP and BSP in UP, but that, too, is purely for the sake of keeping Muslim votes from getting divided. All the bonhomie displayed at Mulayam Singh’s rally in Mainpuri on Friday will go down the chute if the supporters of either party fail to transfer their votes. It would not be a surprise because there is a lot of past history between the two parties and the sections of society whose votes they command.
All of this is more than evident to what can be described as the ‘swing’ voters – either the ones that are voting for the first time, or are not committed to any one party but prefer to be on the winning side. There are those who wish to negotiate some immediate relief for their troubles from whoever can deliver it – a road, here, and a drain, there. And there are also those in a position to take a longer term view in a more informed way. These are the voters who will be judging the merits of continuity and stability, or the gains from a social and political upheaval resulting from voting the other way.