The war between UPA (led by Congress) and NDA (led by BJP) is heating up as D-day approaches. With most opinion polls showing the favourite NDA falling short of majority, NDA is desperately looking for new allies. Congress on the other hand is wooing allies to spoil the chances of BJP. Others excluding Left Front are expected to get 170-180 seats (1/3rd of Lok Sabha strength). So every seat counts!

Regional parties like Shiv Sena and Akali Dal have been with NDA for long. Congress is currently left with Pawar’s NCP, National Conference (NC)., Soren’s JMM and RLD.

India has seen coalition govts. since 1990s under PV Narasimha Rao (1991-1996), under Deve Gowda & IK Gujral (1996-98), under AB Vajpayee (1998-2004) and under Manmohan Singh (2004-current). Smaller / bigger regional parties have supported govts. at the center in turn for ministerial berths and packages for their states. Most of these regional parties don’t have any ideology and go with whichever formation is in a position to form govt. at the center.

Many parties which were there in NDA govt. from 1999-2004 shifted sides after it lost elections and UPA formed govt. Notable among them were DMK, Rashtriya Lok Dal, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party, National Conference, Trinamool Congress etc.

The two mainstream parties have limited presence in many states or are weaker in many states necessitating the need for alliances. These states are Andhra Pradesh (42), Tamil Nadu (39), Uttar Pradesh (80), Bihar (40), Orissa (21), Jammu & Kasmir (6), Jharkhand (14), West Bengal (42), Haryana (10), Punjab 14), Maharashtra (48) due to historical reasons or recent events. While alliances in Maharashtra and Punjab have been firmed up by both BJP & Congress, others states are more or less still open. On a daily basis now there is news of this party in discussions with that party, this party not happy in existing coalition, this party being poached by rival coalition etc. The war will heat up. Exciting!

We take a look at the states where alliances have not yet been finalized and the key regional parties which are being wooed by BJP & Congress. Very difficult to predict where will they finally go or go alone.

Seemandhra: There are two key regional parties here – YSR Congress led by Jagan Reddy and Telugu Desam Party led by Chandrababu Naidu. Both are principally opposed to creation of Telangana, though in 2009 TDP had an electoral alliance with Telangana  Rashtriya Samiti (TRS) which is an advocator of separate state. Basically TDP posturing because of hard stance taken by Jagan. BJP is wooing TDP for some time, problem is BJP supports Telangana while TDP opposes. This could impact vote share of BJP in Telangana. YSR virtually gave an offer to support Modi if he supports united Andhra. With BJP supporting Telangana, this option is mostly closed. YSR could have back channel negotiations with Congress in a deal for state Chief Ministership with his arch rival Kiran Reddy now out of Congress.

Telangana: In this to be created state, BJP and Congress both are wooing K. Chandrasekhar Rao’s TRS. Rao had earlier stated that he would merge his party with Congress if Sonia created Telangana. Now his wish coming true, Congress is pressurizing TRS to merge. Rao is a wily character and very unpredictable. All depends on who gives him a better deal.

Tamil Nadu: This state is dominated by Karunanidhi’s DMK and Jayalalitha’s AIADMK. There are host of other smaller Dravidian parties like Vijaykanth’s DMDK, Vaiko’s MDMK, PMK etc. Karuna’s party DMK was in UPA govt. from 2004 till very recently when it withdrew support to govt., ostensibly unhappy over UPA’s defense of its minister A. Raja and daughter Kanimozhi in 2G scam. The real reason is that astute politician he is, he can see the writing on the wall and doesn’t want to be swamped away by anti-incumbency wave against Congress. He did praise Modi once but BJP was busy wooing Jaya. Now with Jaya in Third Front and throwing her hat in the ring for Prime Ministership, BJP might look at DMK. It has already tied up with MDMK and PMK. DMK & DMDK both being wooed by Congress & BJP.

Uttar Pradesh: This has two big state parties Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party. Both of them provide outside support to Congress. Mulayam’s SP is in govt. in the state. Mulayam has already joined Third Front. So it leaves Mayawati’s BSP. Congress is wooing her desperately but she has so far resisted. Problem with BSP is that while their votes transfer to alliance partner, alliance partner’s votes don’t get transferred to them. They have earlier formed govt. in the state with BJP and also had an alliance with Congress. Will definitely improve the chances of whoever aligns with her.

Bihar: Bihar has a peculiar situation with Nitish’s party JDU breaking ties with BJP. Other regional players like Lalu and Paswan are also powerful. Here the situation is exactly the opposite of what is there in other states. Nitish & Lalu both have been wooing Congress for some time. Congress is as confused as ever. Paswan earlier part of RJD-Congress-LJP alliance was unhappy with seat sharing, complained to Sonia & urged her to form alliance with JDU. JDU also parallely wooing Paswan. When Congress firmed up its alliance with Lalu, it was expected that Paswan would join JDU alliance. But he stayed away. Now comes another surprise. When it seemed that alliances have been finalized, Paswan announces he is joining BJP alliance. Position still not clear. JDU / Lalu can’t join BJP and BJP-Congress cant join each other. All other permutations and combinations possible.

Jharkhand: There are two key parties here Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and Jharkhand Vikas Morcha. Shibu Soren is currently in state govt with his son as Chief Minsiter supported by Congress. But he could change group before election as his govt. could still survive with BJP support. Babulal Marandi is an old time BJP member forced to form his won party. He might go with BJP / Congress depending upon circumstances.

West Bengal: This is much simpler. Mamata Banerjee of Trinamool Congress has ditched Congress recently and can’t align with Left her principal opposition party in state. She would either go with BJP or fight alone. BJP is wooing her though….

Orissa: Similar to W. Bengal. Biju Janata Dal can’t go with Congress its principal opposition party in the state. It joined Third Front but abstained from the last meeting. It could either align with BJP its erstwhile partner (till 2009) or go alone.

Haryana: Principal parties here are Om Prakash Chautala’s Indian National Lok Dal and Kuldeep Vishnoi’s NLD and HVC. BJP is wooing both of them. Let see what happens. Both of them have been with NDA earlier.

As elections near, most of them barring bigger ones like Maya / Mamata could go the BJP way in anticipation of some ministerial berths as all polls show them leading the pack. Back channel negotiations have already begun with most of them for seat arrangements. BJP has to be wary of opportunists as it could dent its anti-corruption plank on which it is attacking Congress. A lot of these leaders have a corrupt background. Lene ke dene na pad jaayen! Lets see what happens….

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