No matter what the wishes are, the run-up to the presidential election is getting murkier with each passing day. We already had tarnished the prestigious office by bringing in core politicians into the race to become India's 13th President and now, even the political quid pro quo has made itself more relevant than ever in the game to gain the presidency.
The Centre has cleared a whopping Rs 45,000 crore for the Samajwadi party (SP)-run Uttar Pradesh. The UPA government will also aid the Akhilesh Yadav government to implement its free laptop scheme for Class XII pass-outs besides other social development schemes besides granting the Bundelkhand financial package by another three years.
The decision came following a high-profile meeting of high officials from key ministries related to the economy held on Wednesday to devise ways to help UP financially. The UP CM, however, had sought Rs 90,000 crore to revive development in the 'electorally most viable' state of the country and the Centre settled for half the amount, yet a whopping one. Is the timing of the generosity just ahead of the presidential poll only a co-incidence? Political prudence suggests otherwise.
Two reasons, an immediate and a long-term
Some officials said the UP was given such a massive aid only because of some technical reasons and it was not any sort of special package. But not all would be convinced by the logic. Is there a political motive behind this? Rightly so. The game of granting aid is based on two political calculations: one a simple and straight one, i.e., the Centre rewarding the Yadavs for the latter's extending support to Pranab Mukherjee as the UPA's presidential candidate and in doing this, cornering the 'thorn' in the alliance, Mamata Banerjee in a most unexpected manner.
The second calculation is more long-term. The SP will want the Lok Sabha polls to be held earlier, may be in 2013, so that his party can yet ride the favourable wave which brought it in power in the assembly elections earlier this year. Mulayam Singh Yadav, the SP patriarch and a man said to possess prime ministerial ambitions, believes his party can strive for a much better result this time than what it was in 2009. Sources said Mulayam even asked his party men to target 50 seats in the next Lok Sabha polls, more than double the figure (23) it had achieved in 2009.
Mulayam needs Congress for better results
But the real question is: With 29.15% of vote shares in the last assembly polls, will the SP be in a position to double its seats in the Lok Sabha? The veteran politician, Yadav, is not unaware of the fact. The SP's strategy will be simple for the next polls and that is to enter into any sort of seat-sharing understanding with another major party in UP. The BSP and the BJP are clearly out from the option list, the latter being a threat to the minority vote and it makes the Congress as the only viable preference.
The SP knows very well that it needs the Congress for electoral gains in UP and Mulayam did not hesitate to dump Mamata Banerjee, a key ally in the UPA, to reduce his distance with the Congress. A widening Congress-TMC gap increases Mulayam's importance as a saviour for the government, in case a frustrated TMC pulls out.
That Mulayam has reportedly asked his party workers to remain prepared for a 2013 poll and the Congress's generous stance of giving massive aid to UP, indicate to the fact that the SP and Congress have already worked out a behind-the-veil equation. The huge money that the Centre has decided to dole out to the UP government will help both the SP and Congress to enjoy good faith of the state electorate. The Akhilesh Yadav government is eager to implement several populist schemes to reap the benefits. The enthusiasm even went overboard when the govt led by an inexperienced CM announced the 'MLA car bonanza' but later retreated against public backlash.
For mutual benefit
The presidential nomination fiasco gave them the perfect occasion to bond together at the cost of Mamata Banerjee, who on the other hand committed a blunder that could harm her party politically and state economically.
The Congress, which had performed well in UP in 2009 with 21 seats and even raised its tally of seats and percentage of vote share in the last assembly polls, will be keen to pay back the SP's favour and also ensure that it has Netaji on its side during the next general polls. For, chances of its alliance with the Trinamool are not above suspicion.
Whether the elections will be taking place in 2014 or a year earlier is still not certain for there will be some key assembly polls lined up before that, but that fact is both the Congress and the SP are keeping themselves ready for any situation. The extent to which the Congress has gone to woo Mulayam Singh Yadav was evident recently when it hit back at its own spokesperson Rashid Alvi termed Mulayam as an 'agent of the BJP'. The Congress said Alvi did not reflect the party's position.
Machiavellian is the nature of politics
The central funds for the UP prove that no consideration is bigger than political ground realities. The same UPA government had dilly-dallied despite the CM of a cash-starved West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, repeatedly requested for a package accompanied by a moratorium so that her newly-elected government gets a breather. The Congress has clearly deprived Mamata the necessary funds after the latter refused to toe its line over various issues, including supporting Mukherjee. But in case of the UP, the hidden agenda motivated the Congress to make financial overtures to a strategic ally. Mamata can always learn the game of politics from Mulayam for real gains on the ground.