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Third Front? No, it is going to be NDA vs UPA

Various surveys have indicated that both the BJP and the Congress are down in the dumps and the third front or even the mystical fourth front coming up to dictate the national discourse. Most of them, especially a recent C-voter survey, are indicating the possibilities of a hung Parliament. Of course, it is too early to take a call, because neither of the two leading parties have disclosed the cards they hold close to their chest.

Mulayam Singh leading some prospective Third Front members

Mulayam Singh leading some prospective Third Front members

Parkala Observer: Shrikant N Shenoy

News analysts have now started dismissing as a distant possibility a direct fight between Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi. For reasons obvious, both camps — the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance one one hand and the Congress party-led United Political Alliance on the other — are shy of openly declaring as to who will lead their election 2014 campaign.

A NaMo vs RaGa campaign had excited the media to no end, especially since December 2012. Almost all news anchors, from the right, left and centre, seemed to want the coming elections as a direct fight between the two leaders, a la a US presidential fight.

However, both political sides have been reticent, and understandably so, to oblige the shouting brigade in the media.

Of course, it is not only the media, but also the coalition partners that have been expounding their thoughts, more so in the NDA.

But various surveys have indicated that both the BJP and the Congress are down in the dumps and the third front or even the mystical fourth front coming up to dictate the national discourse.

Most of them, especially a recent C-voter survey, are indicating the possibilities of a hung Parliament. Of course, it is too early to take a call, because neither of the two leading parties have disclosed the cards they hold close to their chest.

The basic issue faced by political pundits from various shades and hues is that they are not yet able to read the stars correctly. The coming monsoon also holds the key. The dark clouds that have been forecast for this year are clearly hiding the skies.

Bravado from either side cannot be an indication, and no one can read the horoscopes nor the minds of the parties which are part of the current coalitions.

Take for example, Mulayam Singh Yadav, the man who hunts with the hounds but runs with the hares. Even Mamatadidi did not know what hit her during the presidential election. Mulayam is the most unpredictable element now.

Others like Nara Chandrababu Naidu have not yet come to terms with remaining out of power for a long time. Events have overtaken him and his Telugu Desam party; they have lost it completely and he — the original reformer — cannot comprehend which side he should go to retain his lustre.

Some like Navin Patnaik and J Jayalalithaa are still keeping their preferences in their hearts, but Patnaik would prefer a third or front rather than joining a coalition led by either the Congress or the BJP.

Nitish Kumar is just a red herring. He faces the same fate which Chandrababu Naidu faced. Leave the NDA and get consigned to the margins or join the UPA and yet be consigned to the margins.

Naidu got infatuated with the Left and he has paid the price. He is now wondering how to get out of the muck which has been has been his own creation. There are indicators that he is now seriously considering getting back into the NDA fold. There is simply no other option for him. Jaganmohan Reddy and his YSR Congress Party and Naidu’s ambiguity over the contentious Telangana issue have made the latter a “no show”, at least in Andhra Pradesh, notwithstanding his attempts to reach out to the populace with his mass contact programme.

A lot has been said about other political combinations and permutations and this will continue for quite some time, may be even after the Lok Sabha elections results have been declared.

No political pundit true to his salt –from either side of the divide — will give a definitive conclusion.

But coming back to the NaMo vs RaGa episodes, which some have still stuck to religiously, let us now take a look at the current situation. Here, we take a look at the much-trumpeted online poll conducted by rediff.com.

Most probably India’s oldest news portal, rediff.com’s results of the online survey shows that a whopping 76 per cent picked up Narendra Modi as their choice for prime minister.

Over some seven days, 64,275 readers cast their votes (figures as on 11 am on Monday, April 15) and the results showed that RaGa was far, far behind with “a mere” 3,577 votes.

Manmohan Singh, destined to be known forever as the man who only kept the “seat” warm for RaGa, got only a few hundred votes behind his political master — or mistress’ — son.

Others followed, P Chidambaram, L K Advani, Nitish Kumar, in that order. The only reason we can comprehend Nitish being in that list of 11 — at two per cent — is because of the noises he has been making against that “iron man” from Gujarat.

We can safely ignore the others on that list.

But then polls are just polls, which we can take with a pinch of salt.

Loathe him as much as you can, but ignore him at your own peril. No one has electrified India as Modi has done. The Modi effect has been felt even deep down south, like in remote villages in Tamil Nadu.

There is one thing we might safely say: We, in the media, enjoy a jolly good controversy. And Mr Modi has always been controversial and will remain controversial, for ever. It helps our “TRPs”, you know!

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Can Modi save Karnataka for BJP?

Modi has fired the imagination of the middle classes and urban voters, not only in Gujarat, but across a wide swathe of the nation. Karnataka is no exception to the Modi mania. On the streets and in cafes and offices across the state, people are discussing Modi and his brand of development politics. On social media too, a majority of urban and middle-class Kannadigas have seemingly been enamoured by Modi.

Wanted: Narendra Modi by Karnataka BJP!

Wanted: Narendra Modi by Karnataka BJP!

There is a growing clamour in the Bharatiya Janata Party in Karnataka to bring Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi to campaign for the crucial May 5 assembly elections. The first demand came from Minister C T Ravi when he was visiting coastal Karnataka ahead of the urban local bodies elections, which saw BJP bastions of Mangalore and Udupi falling to the main opposition Congress party.

But can Modi repeat his Gujarat magic and save the BJP in Karnataka?

Interestingly, while national TV channels are keen to see a Modi vs Rahul presidential type of debate ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, Karnataka will see a Modi vs Rahul battle as the local unit of the Congress party is also clamouring for their crown prince to campaign for the assembly elections.  (Read earlier story here.)

Both the leaders have a not so enviable record in the previous outings.

In Himachal Pradesh, Modi campaigned in a few areas, but failed to make a mark due to infighting and the party lost the northern state to the Congress.

As far as Rahul is concerned, even his supporters acknowledge he was a complete disaster in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

But it is advantage Rahul now since various surveys have shown that the Congress party is set to make a comeback. Many national Congress party leaders also feel that Karnataka may help in Rahul’s image make-over as a vote-catcher and will naturally give him a huge moral boost.

The BJP’s  suffered a setback due to various corruption allegations and infighting, but mainly to the bull-headed actions of former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa.

The surveys showed that the Congress is gaining only at the BJP’s expense. The biggest ever opinion that no psephologist can match is the results of the urban local bodies.

It seemed the people wanted to punish the BJP for all its acts of omission and ‘commission’.

But there is no reason for the Congress to claim that it can fire the imagination of the people of the state. The party’s record is also not very inspiring.

The Congress itself is a divided house with a lot of contenders for the chief minister’s post. No one as yet knows who would be candidate for the chief minister’s position.

The BJP is now trying to present itself as a “united house”. Indeed, at the “Vijayasankalpa Samavesha” rally at Mysore earlier today, state leaders including Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar, the newly-appointed state BJP chief Pralhad Joshi, former chief minister Sadananda Gowda, Deputy Chief Minister K S Eshwarappa and national general secretary Ananth Kumar tried to present a united face before the people.

The party also is making all-out efforts to wipe its image clean of all corruption taints. Only the other day, Eshwarappa said that the party had become “free and pure” after the exit of Yeddyurappa.

Eshwarappa said the party’s well-wishers and supporters were earlier “pained on two fronts”:  Confusion over state leadership and some leaders facing corruption charges.

“Now, there is a unity in the leadership. There is no confusion,” he averred. “The workers and well-wishers are happy that those facing CBI cases and had served a prison term are not there. The party has become free and pure.”

But there are a couple of MLAs in the party who are still facing serious charges. Eshwarappa hinted that they would be denied party tickets.

The party has already compiled a list of 150 constituencies where BJP candidates have no danger from party rebels. They are also working hard on constituencies taking into factor the possible damage that could be caused by Yeddyurappa’s Karnataka Janata Paksha and B Sriramulu’s BSR Congress Party.

The party seems to have recovered some ground, but barely. Surveys which showed the BJP getting only about 50-58 seats in December 2012 gave them about 72 seats by February 2013.

But at the back of their minds they know they face an uphill task. There are pockets of resistance in the party, thanks mainly to Yeddyurappa’s policy of caste-based politics which alienated many senior partymen who were from the original RSS fold. They have to won over and brought back into action.

Another step is to show to the electorate that the BJP is united. Today’s Mysore rally seemed to be an exercise towards that end.

But the party needs a massive booster dose if it has to retain power. It has to do a lot to woo back the disenchanted urban and middle class voters, especially in their strongholds like Mangalore and Udupi in coastal Karnataka.

Modi has fired the imagination of the middle classes and urban voters, not only in Gujarat, but across a wide swathe of the nation. Karnataka is no exception to the Modi mania. On the streets and in cafes and offices across the state, people are discussing Modi and his brand of development politics.

On social media too, a majority of urban and middle-class Kannadigas have seemingly been enamoured by Modi. There are at least two Facebook pages called “Narendra Modi Fans from Karnataka” with large “likers”. Everyday, the Modi phenomenon is being promoted and the Internet is being bombarded by images of Modi.

Modi has a task cut out, if he campaigns in Karnataka. Firstly, he will have to tell the people that corruption will no longer be tolerated and he apologises, on behalf of the party, for whatever happened in the past. Secondly, he has to promise the urban voters, especially the youth, that their feelings and aspirations would be taken care of.

At the moment, it seems only Narendra Modi, among all top party leaders, can connect with the masses and convince them to return the BJP back to power in Karnataka.

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