New Delhi: Ahead of the Kerala assembly polls, senior leader P.C. Chacko quit the Congress to join the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) headed by Sharad Pawar. In episode 705 of ThePrint’s ‘Cut the Clutter’, Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta explained the decades-old ‘miracle’ that is NCP and also highlights contradictions in the Congress and the Left, wherein they are friends in two states and foes in another.
In light of the upcoming elections in Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry, Gupta also explores a “fascinating and peculiar” phenomenon in Indian politics.
Gupta points to the ‘confusions’ within the Congress. It is the second largest party nationwide and has 20 per cent of the votes, which is nearly 12 and a half crore votes.
It is currently involved in two key situations — one in Kerala where it should “very logically see a chance of coming back” because the state typically witnesses a pendulum-like situation during elections, one that swings from Left Democratic Front (LDF) in one election to United Democratic Front (UDF) in another.
UDF is led by the Congress and the LDF by the Communist Party of India (Marxist). “CPM is here (in power) so you would expect the Congress would expect the pendulum to swing and UDF to come to power. So, the Congress is fighting a big tough battle in Kerala and would believe that it has a good, logical chance of coming back to power,” he explained.
The other key situation is in Tamil Nadu, where Congress is a secondary partner in coalition with primary opposition party Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). It has 25 seats out of the total 234 assembly seats. Last time, Congress contested 40 seats, but this time only managed to get 25 after a lot of jostling.
Congress and the Left are on the same side in Tamil Nadu — CPI and CPM have six seats each in the same alliance. “The equation changes as Congress is fighting the same Left Front bitterly in the adjoining state of Kerala,” Gupta pointed out.
“How can you be fighting one front on one side of the same state border, and this side you can be partners?” said Gupta.
Even more piquant is the situation in West Bengal where the Congress and the Left have a direct alliance of their own.
The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) was formed in 1999 when Sharad Pawar, Tariq Anwar and Purno Sangma were expelled from the Congress for questioning the rise of Sonia Gandhi as leader of the party.
“It is a party of miracles and I will tell you the reason,” Gupta said. When prominent Congress leader in Kerala P.C. Chacko quit the party, he said he had been frustrated by factional fights in the party. He then joined the NCP.
“NCP and Congress are partners, nationally — they have a national seat sharing arrangement in Lok Sabha elections. They are partners in Lok Sabha and part of the UPA,” he said.
Now here, a prominent Congress leader leaves the party in Kerala but at the same time the NCP can continue to be a partner of the Congress. “So, these are marvels or miracles of NCP — no other party, I believe, can do something like this because even the last Manipur elections, where Congress had a big stake, NCP put up its own candidates,” Gupta said.
The ‘power’ of Sharad Pawar is that he can help get one power, but he can also ‘deny’ you power.
For instance, in the last Gujarat assembly elections, NCP set up its candidates against the Congress and the BJP. “If you see the number of votes the NCP got in those six or seven seats, that could have made a difference to the final tally … and the history of Gujarat might have changed,” he observed.
BJP’s pull in Puducherry
Gupta also spoke about peculiar situation in Puducherry — BJP ‘pulled down’ the Puducherry government. In the union territory’s last election, the BJP got only 2.5 per cent of the vote. But now they have allocated themselves nine seats in the coalition with All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and local party All India N.R. Congress (AINRC). This is a lot in a house of 30 seats.
More importantly, AIADMK won 16 per cent of the votes in the last state assembly but is now contesting only six seats.
Gupta posed the question: how can the party that got 2.5 per cent votes have nine seats and the party that got 16 per cent votes have six?
“This tells you that BJP is using its overwhelming power of Delhi, the agencies, the money, everything, to get this complete sweetheart deal out of AIADMK,” he said.
Watch the full CTC episode here: