The shrinking of the Congress may be a boost for the regional parties as much as for the BJP. The only third national player, the Left, views the ongoing elections as a natural progression towards a secular alternative which, despite Rahul Gandhi’s expressed reservations, the Congress will be duty-bound to support.

According to CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat, the complex reality of Indian elections is being depicted as a uniform, one-dimensional rise of the BJP by the corporate media.

The truth is that there is a vast section of non-aligned political parties which may together have as much of a chance to form the government as the BJP. Karat was speaking to journalists at an Indian Women Press Corps meet on Saturday.

“I regret to say this, but the agenda of the big business is being served by the media through a disproportionate projection of the BJP and its prime ministerial candidate. The only distinct feature of this election is the decline of the Congress. But that does not naturally mean an exponential rise of the BJP.

“The non-Congress, non-BJP parties too have made gains. Of course, we will know once the results come out but the elections are not as one-sided as they are being made out to be,” Karat said.

This time, the calculation is that a much-chastened Congress will be constrained to support a second secular alternative. “The stability of a secular coalition has to depend on how positive the attitude of the Congress is,” said Karat.

Change of mind

The Congress, incidentally, first expressed its willingness to support any alternative government formation and then changed its mind.

In an interview to a national daily, party President Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel has stressed that it will be ready to support a secular alternative to prevent the BJP from assuming power at the centre. But all such overtures have been nipped in the bud by Rahul, who said in Amethi that the Congress will not support any other front.

Koi jod tod nahin karenge. Hamaare poore number ayenge (We will not cobble together numbers for any front. We are getting a majority on our own,” he said. The BJP, on its part, has labelled all efforts towards the creation of a third front as a “recipe for disaster and chaos”.

“The last thing that India needs after 10 years of UPA’s misrule is a chaotic and unstable entity called the Third Front. All such experiments have failed in the past and are bound to fail in the future.

“So, our appeal in the remaining phases will be for people to vote for a decisive and stable government led by the NDA,” said senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley.

The Left, however feeble its electoral strength may be, still feels it can play a role in the formation of the next government. It is quite sparing about the manner in which the AIADMK dumped the CPI(M) in Tamil Nadu. “You see, every party wants to maximise its strength in the elections.

“With the AIADMK, we had an understanding but they did not part with too many seats. It is as simple as that and one understands it in the proper context,” Karat said.

Restricted seats

There is also a clear understanding about the sheer ideological opportunism that prevails among some of the regional players who are attacking the BJP before the elections but may not hesitate in joining the NDA post results.

The Left’s hopes rest on the fact that the gains made by the regional players — such as the RJD in Bihar, the SP and the BSP in Uttar Pradesh, the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu, theYSR Congress in Seemandhra and the TRS in Telangana — may restrict the number of seats the BJP will get.

The only party Karat was openly sceptical about was the Trinamool Congress. “There is a lot of rhetoric and vitriol against the BJP right now because elections are under way. What they do after the elections cannot be predicted.

“All I can say is that they have gone with the BJP in the past and there is nothing to prevent them from doing it in the future,” he said.

Although a number of these parties are not part of what the Left prefers to call a “secular alternative”, the belief is most of them will choose to align not with the led by a totalitarian figure like Narendra Modi.

So far as doubts about the longevity and stability of such a front are concerned, Karat is of the view that the destabilising factor in such a coalition is not the contradictions among the regional parties but the interference by the national parties.

“You seem to forget that the Left Front government in 1996 was destabilised by the Congress which gave us outside support. First they wanted the Prime Minister changed.

“And despite our serious objections to such a demand, other parties capitulated and the PM was changed. Finally, it was the Congress that pulled out support. The regional parties are not responsible,” Karat said.