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Chances of Bihar style grand alliance in poll-bound Bengal remote


Kolkata: It was “rising intolerance” or a “desperate survival bid” that saw old foes Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad join hands with the Congress to trump the BJP-led alliance in the Bihar polls. Will the approaching West Bengal assembly elections see the emergence of yet another grand alliance?

Opinions vary as the political temperature in the state rises with the electoral battle just months away.

While for some, the vastly different political spectrum in Bengal may not allow the forging of a Bihar like combination, some others feel the Nitish-Lalu duo, post the Bihar victory, could play a decisive role in next year’s duel.

While the opposition – the Left Front, the Congress and the BJP – has often been unanimous in deriding the Trinamool Congress for its “misrule” and aspires to dethrone the Mamata Banerjee government in the state, it is yet to indicate any resolve to bury its differences and collectively fight against the Trinamool.

On the other hand, an advocate of forging a federal front opposed to the “communal” BJP, Chief Minister and Trinamool supremo Mamata Banerjee, has been wooing Nitish Kumar and her Delhi counterpart Arvind Kejriwal, which some see as an attempt to forge a Bihar-like coalition.

Political analyst Anil Kumar Jana, though, opines that Bengal’s political dynamics may not present the opportunity for such an alliance.

“Had the BJP won in Bihar, things could have been different. There could have been possibilities of the Congress or even the Left coming together with the Trinamool to stop the BJP. But now, owing to the strong political compulsions of the parties, the possibility of any such alliance is very remote,” Jana told IANS.

The Vidyasagar University professor, however, felt the Congress and the CPI-M – both locked in an existential battle in the state – may come together against their common enemy, the Trinamool.

Another analyst, Udayan Banerjee, insisted that the Marxists cannot afford to align with the Congress.

“For the Left, Kerala is far more important as it has a chance of coming back to power there. Even if Bengal leaders insist, the politburo will not allow any kind of truck with the Congress as it may jeopardise its chances in Kerala,” said the associate professor of political science at the Bangabasi College here.

While there have been feelers from certain sections in both the camps on the possibility of an alliance, the top leaderships are non-committal. But both the parties unanimously ruled out the feasibility of a Bihar-like coalition.

Remaining evasive on the issue of joining hands with the Marxists, state Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury argued that the political dynamics in Bengal did not afford the major forces – Trinamool, Congress, Left or the BJP – to be unopposed to each other.

“The BJP’s communal politics had brought rivals together in Bihar. But in Bengal, irrespective of the fact that the opposition collectively has been a target of Trinamool’s terror tactics, such a coalition is not possible,” Chowdhury told IANS.

Marxist politburo member Mohammad Salim shared a similar view.

“While the decision to forge any kind of alliance rests with the politburo, I don’t think in Bengal, a Bihar-like alliance is possible.

“Mamata Banerjee may indulge in any kind of gimmicks, but political parties realise the consequences of joining hands with the Trinamool. Her wooing of Nitish Kumar or Kejriwal is only a desperate move to stay relevant in national politics,” Salim told IANS.

While his party had been part of the Congress-led UPA-I dispensation, Salim, on speculation of the CPI-M aligning with the Congress, said: “Let the speculation remain.”

But political analyst Biswanath Chakraborty felt that association with JD-U chief Nitish Kumar and RJD head Lalu Prasad is a guarantee for victory in the Bengal polls.

“Post the Bihar polls, both of them have emerged as the apostles of secularism and victors over intolerance. With nearly 30 percent Muslim population in Bengal, whoever can get them on their side will emerge victorious,” Chakraborty told IANS.

Enthused by the success of its recent agitations, including a trade union-endorsed general strike on September 2, the Marxist-led Left Front has been claiming it is gaining ground since the debacle in 2011 when the Trinamool ended its 34-year-long uninterrupted rule in the state.

Chakraborty however, opined that the 2011 scenario will unfold yet again unless the Left manages to forge a “secular democratic front” with Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad on board.

“Incidentally, it’s not the Left, rather Mamata, who is making endeavours to stitch such a front. From participating in Kejriwal’s chief ministers’ conclave to voicing support for Nitish Kumar, Banerjee has been making all the right noises,” Chakraborty, a political science professor at Rabindra Bharati University, told IANS.

“Even though her party can win on its might, by wooing the key non-BJP players, she is sending out a strong message to the minorities and at the same also attempting to deny the Congress or the Left, the opportunity to forge any kind of association with the secular parties,” Chakraborty added.

Trinamool Lok Sabha member Sultan Ahmed insisted the invitations to Kejriwal, Nitish Kumar or Lalu Prasad for the Bengal Global Business Summit in January 2016 is not aimed at any electoral move.

“Whether inviting Kejriwal or supporting Nitish Kumar, it is more about fighting to preserve the federal structure of the country, which is under attack under the Narendra Modi government,” Ahmed told IANS.

(Anurag Dey, IANS)

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Come April, government will be more comfortable in Rajya Sabha

Of the 100 BJP-allies MPs, 24 are retiring. Which means, the government will be left with 76 MPs

Parliament of India is a source of interest for many people because of various reasons. Wikimedia Commons
Parliament of India is a source of interest for many people because of various reasons. Wikimedia Commons
  • In April, the opposition may lose its edge over BJP in Rajya Sabha
  • NDA led by Modi has faced many embarrassments in Rajya Sabha in past few years
  • This is expected to change soon

Come April, the opposition in the Rajya Sabha may lose its edge in the numbers game and the power to stall any government bill, as the ruling BJP-led NDA coalition is set to catch up with its rivals, though a clear majority will elude them for a while more.

BJP to soon get more comfortable in  Rajya Sabha. Wikimedia commons
BJP to soon get more comfortable in Rajya Sabha. Wikimedia Commons

As 58 MPs, including three Nominated and one Independent, are set to retire in April, the Rajya Sabha math is going to change. It is set to favour the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), and the trend may continue in the elections to the Upper House later too with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) having solid majorities in a number of state assemblies, especially the ones it won after the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

With this, while the Congress-led opposition’s numbers will come down to around 115 from the present 123, the numbers of the BJP, its allies and sympathisers together would climb to around 109 from the present 100-odd members.

And the gap, once wide enough to let the opposition invariably have its say, will keep narrowing further in the coming months.

Of the 55 retiring members (excluding those Nominated), 30 belong to the opposition camp while 24 belong to the BJP and allies. Of them, a large number of NDA candidates are set to return while the opposition will lose a chunk of its members.

As things stand now, the Congress-led opposition has 123 MPs (including 54 of the Congress) in a house of 233 elected members (apart from 12 Nominated), while the NDA has 83 members (including 58 of BJP) plus four Independents who support the BJP (these include MPs Rajeev Chandrashekhar, Subhash Chandra, Sanjay Dattatraya Kakade and Amar Singh).

Rajya Sabha or the Upper House can often be a game changer while passing of the bills is in process.
Rajya Sabha or the Upper House can often be a game changer while passing of the bills is in process.

Also, for all practical purposes, the All India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), that has 13 members in the Rajya Sabha, is also with the NDA. This means the NDA’s effective strength in the upper house of Parliament is 100.

The gap was wider till just a few months ago. This meant that during any battle between the government and the opposition in the Upper House over bills and major issues, it was the opposition that invariably had its way. The recent example was the triple talaq legislation that the opposition stalled in the upper house, demanding that it be referred to a Select Committee.

For over less than four years, the Narendra Modi government had faced quite a few embarrassments in the Rajya Sabha thanks to the majority of the opposition, forcing it often to take the money bill route to avoid a clash in the house. Under the Constitution, a money bill needs to be passed only in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha cannot stall it.

Also Read: For Modi, Road To 2019 Will Be Steeper

However, after April, the NDA will be in a far better position.

Of the 100 BJP-allies MPs, 24 are retiring. Which means, the government will be left with 76 MPs (including AIADMK). But at least 30 from the NDA are set to get re-elected. So the number will rise to 106. Add three members that the government would nominate to the upper house and the final NDA tally will roughly be 109 MPs.

Further, there are fence-sitters such as the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and the YSR Congress, which are not virulently against the BJP and would not oppose the government unless for very compelling reasons.

Now, for the Congress and the rest of the opposition, they are set to lose 30 MPs (including one Independent, A.V. Swamy) through retirement and would be left with around 93 members. The Opposition may win roughly 22 seats, which means that its final tally after April is likely to be around 115 members.

Government can now expect some smooth sailing in the Rajya Sabha, coming this April.
Government can now expect some smooth sailing in the Rajya Sabha, coming this April.

The gap has clearly narrowed and the government may not be at the mercy of the opposition during crucial votes and can have its way in the Rajya Sabha if it musters its numbers by deftly wooing “floater” MPs.

The three newly-elected Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) members may remain equidistant from both the BJP and the Congress, though the party is friendly with some of the major opposition parties like the Trinamool Congress.

Also Read: BJP MP Seeks Amendment to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Bill

In an interesting development recently, the AAP actively participated in the opposition’s walkout and the day-long boycott of the Rajya Sabha over long intra-day adjournments of the Upper House by Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu.

The AAP, which was not welcome at any opposition meetings earlier, particularly those held in Parliament House, was invited to speak at a joint opposition media interaction on the day. But nobody can be sure as to how long this bonding would last.

Partywise tally of those retiring in April-May from the opposition’s side include 13 from the Congress, six from the Samajwadi Party, three of the Trinamool Congress, two each of the Nationalist Congress Party and Biju Janata Dal and one each of the CPI-M, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha.

NDA has to face many embarrassments in past few years in Rajya Sabha. Wikimedia Commons
NDA has to face many embarrassments in past few years in Rajya Sabha. Wikimedia Commons

From the ruling side, 17 MPs of the BJP, three of the Janata Dal United, one of the Shiv Sena and two of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) are retiring.

In terms of state-wise vacancies to be created in April, the highest number is from Uttar Prdaesh (9), followed by Maharashtra (6), Madhya Pradesh (5), Bihar (5), Gujarat (4), Karnataka (4), West Bengal (4), Rajasthan (3), Odisha (3), Andhra Pradesh (3), Telangana (2), Uttarakhand (1), Himachal Pradesh (1) and Chhattisgarh (1). IANS