Countdown to 2014
The presidential elections are going to create a re-alignment of political forces before 2014 general elections. The NDA has declared Mr P.A. Sangma as its candidate for presidential post while UPA has already declared Mr Pranab Mukherjee as its candidate. After the initial bickering of some of the alliance partners in the UPA, Pranab Mukherjee has got wide support including Janata Dal (United) and Shiv Sena which is not a good sign for the alliance. On the other side, Trinamul Congress is also weighing its decision on Pranab but has not yet decided to pull out of UPA.
P.A.Sangma’s name has been proposed by the opposition chief ministers Mr Naveen Patnayak and Ms J.Jayalalitha. Both the chief ministers had jointly proposed Sangma’s name for the post of President of India. NDA did not give much heed to them as they were sure that Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam would contest the election and it would be difficult for political parties to ignore the goodwill and support that he enjoys with the masses. Unfortunately, Kalam realized that after Pranab was declared as UPA’s candidate and with the support of political parties across line, it would be difficult to even lose decently and therefore like a smart politician, he thanked every political party supporting his name and decided against contesting.
There have been lot of talks in the NDA regarding the presidential elections but they could not arrive at unanimity. It was thought that parties would opt for conscience vote but finally BJP and other partners decided to support Sangma, though cracks within the alliance were widely visible in open as Janata Dal United openly declared its support to Pranab along with Shiv Sena.
Now, political analysts are wondering whether this Presidential poll will result in breaking and making alliances as most of the political parties are voting as per the visualization of 2014 general election. With Congress losing ground swiftly and no determination in the party leadership to fight it valiantly, the opposition is acting fast. The groundswell of support for Pranab Mukherjee is basically because of the future alliances and political nature of the President and its importance during the formation of the coalition government when none will have majority. A political President will be much better than a non political entity and his suggestions and opinion would matter a lot.
In the past few decades, the Presidents were not man or woman of political stature. They were light weight and politicians were not really comfortable with them but with Pranab Mukherjee, this situation is going to alter, as he is not just the senior most member of the cabinet but virtually had run the government in the past ten years. His connections across the party lines are well known and therefore everyone knows that he is not going to be a rubber stamp President.
P.A. Sangma is a tribal leader and was former Chief Minister of Meghalaya. His daughter is in the Union Cabinet and the fact that he will lose and yet he is fighting has some concerns. Sangma was politically marginalized for long. He has a grudge against Sonia Gandhi and a person of Indian ethnicity for the Prime Minister’s position made him an arch enemy of 10 Janpath yet situation compelled both him and Congress be accommodative each other. But in the past few years, Sangma was a non entity in politics and even in his own state of Meghalaya. So, with this election he has come back to main stream politics again and may get accommodated in some party or other soon. But BJP has its own agenda for supporting Sangma and that is to get tribal votes. Mulayam and Mamta had similar reasons with Kalam being a Muslim but the Muslim vote bank never came their way since Kalam never used his Muslim identity for any purposes. Similarly, Sangma’s Aadivasi card is unfortunate and very late now.If it has to be raised, it should have been raised in the beginning.
There is nothing wrong if Aadivasis of India wants to have their own President though we all know there is nothing in the hands of a President to support the Aadivasis cause except from putting moral pressure on the government to work for the betterment of the community and stop their exploitation. While Sangma was a great Lok Sabha speaker yet there is nothing that could be attached to him as far as question of Aadivasi comes.
Of course, the Biju Janata Dal and Jayalalitha proposing his name has a lot to do with Odisha which is, at the moment, fighting against Maoist insurgency and Aadivasis have been at the receiving end from both the government and the Maoists. Hence, it seems, Naveen Patnayak wants to send a signal to them that his party cares for them and wants to elect ‘their’ President which is absolutely incorrect as these positions are not distributed in the name of caste and religion. It is also important to understand that Naveen’s government in Odisha has shamelessly pursued the global agenda at the cost of Aadivasis and just a symbolic support to a person, who has never raised tribal issues in Parliament, will not assuage the feelings of the already hurt tribals.
Similarly if BJP wants tribal votes just because of its support to Sangma, it must ask its government in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand not to pursue anti-tribal agenda in the name of development and stop exploitation, humiliation and victimization of tribasl. P.A. Sangma have rarely spoken on the tribal issues in the country and when tribals of India were looking for a leader who could raise issues in Parliament or outside, Sangma was not the voice and leadership they were looking for.
Dr Abdul Kalam fits in the Hindutva scheme very well. He talks of India’s missile power and 2020 for the middle classes. His Muslim identity, with liberal support for Hindu customs, actually makes him an ideal candidate for the Sangh Parivar’s long term agenda and that is why there is a huge support for him within the Sangh Parivar. Subrahmanyam Swamy worked over time to ensure that Kalam contested so he could play his role. Mohan Bhagwat also endorsed his name. Similar support for Sangma does not exist because of his Christian background. But, BJP’s last minute support to Sangma is aimed at consolidating the Aadivasis back to its fold for electoral purposes.
It is clear that BJP played the same card to divide Aadivasis and Dalits in Kandhamal in Odisha and that is the reason why Biju Janata Dal broke away from the party. The hardcore Hindutva cadres have unleashed a reign of terror in the region and one sincerely hopes that Sangma does not forget that there was a Graham Stains and his wife along with two children, who were brutally burnt alive by an active participant and supporter of the Hindutva. There was outrage in the country yet the party and its various affiliates found it difficult to condemn Dara Singh as the official line was similar to what they too in Gujarat. Apparently, Stains were converting people and Adivasis had opposed it and that is why they turned violent and burnt the entire family. Its very unfortunate on part of Sangh Parivar that they have never condemned violence by their own cadre in unconditional terms.
Janata Dal had differed with BJP very clearly and is now supporting Pranab Mukherjee. Actually, Nitish knows well that 2014 is a wide open game and if BJP projects Narendra Modi as their leader, it would be difficult for them to get support of their Muslim constituent as well as a large number of secular voters, Dalits and backward classes.
Secondly, most of the politicians supporting UPA have their own gamble for 2014. While, the writing on the wall is that Congress and UPA are on their way out of the government, the fact remains that Sonia Gandhi as well as her party might emerge stronger after the polls. The reason for that is clear that no party can form the government at the Centre without the support of Congress Party. It is a fact that Congress in government has accommodated all the allies but it also takes its cake when it is not in government but supporting it. They know how to extract things and history may be repeating in 2014. Nitish knows it well that with BJP, there is a little chance of him to get support while Congress might do so.
Similar concern forced Mulayam Singh Yadav to support UPA and be in Sonia’s good books so that if condition arises and if they gain good seats from Uttar-Pradesh, then he won’t be able to fulfill his desire of becoming the Prime Minister of India without Sonia Gandhi and Congress support. Mamta’s posturing is because of her future. She knows that once Pranab wins, there will be Bengali pride and nationalism issues, which the congress party will use during the elections but she thought she could counter it easily by playing the Muslim card by making Kalam the President. Now since that issue is closed, she will have to think whether leaving UPA is the best option for her party.
Though Pranab has clear majority, yet none can guarantee a victory unless the last vote is counted. Sangma is not new and is also a senior politician of the country who was respected very much during his tenure as the speaker of Lok Sabha. But these elections will form the position of political parties for 2014 elections and realignment has already begun and in the coming days it might force other parties to think as well. The process for general elections 2014 has begun and we will be hearing a lot of stories, charges, accusations and counters in this theatre of politics soon.
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