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Jayalalitha’s Left Gamble

February 5, 2014

The announcement of an alliance between Jayalalitha’s AIADMK and Left parties took many by surprise. Jayalalitha, the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister is supposed to be a friend of Narendra Modi, the PM candidate of the NDA (National Democratic Alliance). Most political watchers were expecting an expansion of the NDA with Chandrababu Naidu’s TDP and AIADMK formally joining the Modi bandwagon. Jaya’s decision to go with the Left can be seen as a blow to Narendra Modi’s aspirations. But politics is the art of the possible and nothing can be ruled out.

Looking at the political situation as it appears as of now Jaya’s decision to join hands with the Left is really pragmatic and if one may say, an obvious one. It would be foolish to say that the BJP is cruising to power in 2014. While it is true that pre-election surveys have given a very positive picture of NDA’s chances in 2014 it is also true that BJP and allies do not have any presence in many important states including Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra, West Bengal, Assam, Odisha, the whole of NE and Kashmir Valley. This is a huge chunk of seats. It is true that in Andhra TDP and YSR Congress have shown inclination to join NDA in their overt anti-Congress stance. But even then NDA has its task cut out to cobble a government in case they do not reach the magical 272 mark.

The position of the Congress led UPA is even worse. They do not have a presence in two of the most important states in the country – UP and Bihar. In Bihar they have managed to arm twist Lalu and Paswan to align with them. They are trying the same with Jayalalitha in Tamil Nadu by slapping early 90’s tax cases against her and her friend Sasikala. Jayalalitha’s decision to go with the Left has its moorings in these cases too. Congress led UPA has veritably lost the 2014 elections even before the bugle for the polls has been sounded.

There is then an outside chance that a Third Front might form the government in 2014. I mean, if the NDA falls short and the UPA does not cross the three figure mark what are the possibilities? A Third Front – a rag tag of some 20plus parties might cobble a government. No one would want to go to the polls again – unless absolutely necessary. A Third Front might be the answer. In such a scenario even some of the possible NDA allies like TDP, Jagan Reddy and Sharad Pawar’s NCP might join hands. Naveen Patnaik will of course welcome any such development as he claims he wants to be equi-distant from both BJP and Congress. Remember, Naveen Patnaik is also close to the Left. There is another little fact that many may not be aware of – Naveen Patnaik and Jayalalitha are very good friends. Did Naveen Patnaik nudge Jaya into the lap of the Left parties? It could well be.

Friends can help one decide but in politics it is cold numbers that count. Jayalalitha’s arithmetic is very clear. She understands that Mulayam’s Samajwadi Party is slipping in UP and that for her may have been the tipping point in going with the Left. Mamata’s Trinamool Congress is also not the force it was when she stormed to power a couple of years ago. Comparatively Jaya’s political situation is much stronger. Infighting within the Karunanidhi clan helps Jaya’s AIADMK. SP cannot win more than 20 odd seats in UP, if even that. Mamata too might not be able to manage more than 15 seats. If AIADMK wins anywhere around 35 seats in Tamil Nadu and with Left’s help that might be possible, then Jaya may be the Queen who will have a very real chance of entering 7 Race Course Road in style. Yes, India could well have a PM from a regional party with less than 50 seats to credit. This is a real possibility.
The other reason why Jayalalitha may have shunned the Rightist NDA and gone with the Left is because last time she aligned with the Rightists she was routed. The vocal minorities of Tamil Nadu scripted her defeat and Jaya is loath to take the risk another time. She would much rather play it safe and align with the Left than take the risk of have truck with the BJP. The good news for her is that Prakash Karat and his Comrades are content with a couple of seats in Tamil Nadu and do not hanker for much.

There is another less known facet of the BJP- AIADMK equation that many political analysts do not realize, Narendra Modi received a tumultuous response in Tamil Nadu especially in Trichy. Modi experimented with the use of a translator and the crowds appreciated his gesture of reaching out to them. People appreciated that someone not conversant with their language was making efforts to communicate with them through an interpreter. Besides more and more people understand Hindi now than ever before. Also, the development plank of Narendra Modi has caught the imagination of the nation and Tamil Nadu has not remained untouched. Tamilians want development and are fed up with the political nitpicking of the AIADMK and DMK. In BJP and NaMo Jaya sees a greater threat than the Congress. She wants to nip any political expansion of the BJP in Tamil Nadu, in the bud. Having an alliance with a possible future foe would be political naivety for the Queen of Poes Gardens.

Aligning with the Left for Jayalalitha was a pragmatic move and one that could catapult her to the PM’s gaddi. In politics anything is possible. If Deve Gauda and Indra Kumar Gujaral can be the PM of India, why can’t Jayalalitha? NDA will be forced to join hands with MDMK of Vaika. I hope they are more sensitive to his views this time around. BJP could try and breach the AIADMK bastions in Tamil Nadu with some more Modi rallies. The question is –do they have the time and will it be worth the effort.
Can’t help but wonder – when Jayalalitha becomes the Chief Minister her followers roll on the floor and stark obeisance. What will they do if she becomes the PM – one can only imagine!!

What I do know is that if Jaya does become the PM she will make a good one. She is intelligent and knows how to administer. She is also fluent in Hindi and will have no problems working in New Delhi environs. If she does get the top post she might want to turn AIADMK into a pan-India outfit. But that is sometime in the future. She is a better prospect than many other possible PM aspirants. Aligning with the Left? Of course!

The most likely post poll scenario should be a massive win for the Rightist, well near the half-way mark and Jayalalitha stepping in to ensure a NDA government supporting them from outside. She will not join the government. However she will be present at the swearing-in-ceremony with a big bouquet for her friend Narendra Modi. Jaya values friendship and loyalty and that is the way she has lived her life and done her politics. NaMo can bank on the Lady from the South!

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