Amaravati: " Keep your friends close and your Enemies much closer "
The Machiavellian politician from Andhra Pradesh Chandra Babu Naidu (CBN) when posed before cameras with the Congress Chief Rahul Gandhi in Delhi to announce on how their coming together is a "democratic compulsion” appeared to be an embodiment of all the political, reforming and marketing wisdom of the world.
Both the leaders smiling at the cameras commented that their meeting, a step towards the “Mega” Alliance is to defend democracy and save the established institutions of the country from Modi.
The sensational alliance with the Congress chief, however, being, a "Democratic Compulsion" brings more questions on to the forefront than the answers.
The present-day political discourse, vis-a-vis CBN's efforts to bring Anti-Modi forces together reminds us of the 1988 situation.
Both the governments, then and now enjoyed an absolute majority in the parliament.
Midway during their tenures, the governments were bogged with defence scandals (Bofors then, Rafale row now).
The economies slumped from bad to worse.
Supreme Court delivered judgment on sensitive issues - Shah Bano case then, a verdict on Sabarimala now.
Above all the “Ram Mandir” issue– while a jittery Rajiv Gandhi ordered the opening of the gates and closed the way for his Congress.
The present government has also been toying with similar idea of rekindling the Mandir sentiment and is toying with an idea to enact an ordinance.
However, the comparisons stop there.
Neither Rahul Gandhi nor CBN has the same level of perspicacity enjoyed by V P Singh hailed for opposing the then PM over Bofors deal and resigning as Defence minister and N T Rama Rao the man credited as the rallying force in bringing all like-minded parties fighting Congress on to one platform.
But, the present day Anti-Modi parties mainly AAP and TMC are somehow seem allergic for an alliance with Rahul Gandhi as its leader.
When CBN, shook hands with Rahul, his political evaluation, also known as "40 years" industry, turned a full circle.
By citing Democratic Compulsion to join forces with the Congress, CBN just morphed TDP, a regional force, which was formed to defeat the Congress, into a formidable force to take on his erstwhile ally the BJP.
CBN who’s facing a stiff challenge from Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy in Andhra Pradesh is forced to make a paradigm shift in the policy of TDP survived on strong anti-Congress ploy till date.
The party ever since its birth in the early 80’s has been in the anti-Congress camp - both in the state and outside and contested elections with all “left” and “right” wing parties including TRS, against the Congress.
The latest effort by CBN is a political compulsion
in the wake of anti-incumbency on the one hand and a possible friendship between arch-rival YSRCP and the BJP on the other.
Given the said experience, CBN needs ‘new’ friends and he has no way than join hands with the Congress.
The Congress is the only national party with the same size and scale as the BJP.
For the Congress which remains still a significant force that can take the BJP head on in at least in one-fourth of the total seats, it is the question of having alliances without sacrificing Rahul Gandhi in the melee of opposition leaders.
The leaders opposing Modi know better than their political careers hinge on defeating Modi and BJP.
CBN's past political somersaults might make his credentials as messiah of Opposition unity suspect.
But, given the contradictions among the partners, vis-a-vis in accepting Rahul as the leader, he is now seen as the new messiah of Opposition unity.
The opposition by targeting Modi is playing into his hands giving the leverage to him to go into the public with “me” vs “who”? ...
But, it would depend upon how able CBN's coalition matches the perception battle in the run up to the elections .
So far, the BJP is successful in keeping the opposition disunited thus conveying a message that the " Kichidi Colition" can’t beat Modi in the current scenario.
ut, with Modi's graph gradually heading southward, the BJP is clearly on the defensive.
There’s enough ground to create a highly charged political narrative surrounding the economy, Rafael scam etc., in cornering Modi who seems to have no answers on the economic front, than accuse the opposition of uttering lies.
So far, attempts to unite non-BJP or anti-BJP parties have yielded mixed results for CBN.
A front still eluded given the inherent contradictions in the non-BJP camp, particularly in dealing with the Congress.
Congress needs Naidu as a mediator to rally the others,however, susceptible his political career might be.
Naidu, too, is keen on embracing the Congress due to the electoral arithmetic at play in his home turf since he walked out of the NDA and in the face of tough opponents.
Thus, Naidu has meticulously balanced his political interest in the state in the national framework to avert any possible antipathy towards his alliance with the Congress at home.
For Babu an alliance with Congress may help politically, even it meant that it would not allow the soul of the party founder NTR rest in peace, regardless of whether it helps at the national level.
However, inconsistent and susceptible CBN might be in ever shifting alliances, his inconsistency might not matter much for other Opposition parties, as most of them have been a part of the same game for all these years.
But, will CBN gamble pay..?
Well, Given the opportunistic nature of Indian political alignments and realignments, nothing certain can be said on what the scenario will be after the election.
Whatever, might be the fate of CBN's coalition, but he is no doubt a " Master of Coalitions", however, opportunistic, he might be.