The next Lok Sabha election will be a unique one. With neither the Congress and BJP in a position to call the shots, it will ultimately depend on the smaller parties to influence the key decision. Or unless there is a Congress-BJP alliance to form a government, which though will take some time to become a reality, if ever it does.
But what will be the situation like in the post-poll situation? According to three post-poll surveys conducted recently, the UPA is set to get 184 seats (The Week-Hansa survey), 149-157 seats (CNN-IBN and The Hindu survey) and 136 seats (Times Now-CVoter survey). The NDA, on the other hand, is likely to get 197, 172-180 and 156 seats (in that order).
Clearly, the ball will be in court of the regional leaders to determine who rules in Delhi. The likes of Mulayam Singh Yadav, Mayawati, Mamata Banerjee, Nitish Kumar, Jayalalithaa and Naveen Patnaik could be in the running for the top post after ensuring a support from either the Congress and the BJP. The popular expectation of either a Narendra Modi or Rahul Gandhi becoming the prime minister could be seriously dashed by the ruthless reality.
Congress might be a more preferred as a back-up force
Now, of these regional leaders, none except Jayalalithaa will be eager to join the BJP for obvious reasons. Nitish Kumar has just done what Naveen Patnaik had done many years ago by dumping the 'communal' BJP.
Mamata Banerjee, given she is in power now, will have a lot at stake to befriend the BJP led by Narendra Modi while Mulayam Singh and Mayawati are unlikely to tilt in favour of the saffron party unless something cataclysmic happens.
There is no Atal Bihari Vajpayee-like figure to really pull these two crucial electoral figures towards the BJP and if the latter indeed plans to revive the temple issue in Uttar Pradesh, there are even lesser chances of the two Ms backing Modi's dream of becoming the prime minister.
Regional forces will join hands if situation becomes apt; rivalry won't matter then
Hence, it is likely that these leaders would be compelled to take the Congress's support to form a government at the Centre. If, for example, the Trinamool Congress, SP, BSP, JD(U), BJD, YSR Congress, Left Front and few others form a loose coalition with around 170 seats and get a support of the Congress with 130-something seats, they would manage the numbers to form a government, though one may raise a million questions on it's stability.
Who is going to head the unique government?
But who is going to be the prime minister in that government? We can see a rerun of the 1979 or 1990 in the post-2014 situation but a difference this time is that a number of party supremos will be together and for the greater sake of their own stability, could act as a counterweight to the Congress in case the latter decides to pull the carpet from under their feet.
We may have a 'Prime Minister-by-turn' model
The mishmash government may think of a prime minister-by-turn model so that the opposition doesn't get a chance to target its head at the drop of a coin. Four leaders can be picked by the ruling coalition to become the prime minister. Each will lead for 15 months by keeping the basic outline of governance same.
First, Mulayam Singh Yadav. Perhaps the senior-most among the Indian politicians in terms of experience, Netaji has been aiming the top post for quite some time now and will not waste the opportunity coming towards him.
Second, Mamata Banerjee. She is another senior leader who has served under various governments at the Centre and will be in a great position to give it a try. Yes, she is also known to be more committed to her own state and might take a reverse decision, given her unpredictable nature. But till that key moment of decision-making arrives, Banerjee will be one of the favourites if the situation becomes conducive for her party post 2014.
Third, Nitish Kumar. Perhaps the most acclaimed 'secular' leader in the country along with Mulayam Singh Yadav. His decision to dump the BJP in Bihar might raise some long-term problems for the Kurmi leader in Bihar, but it was a grand move as far as the small gains are concerned. The former railway minister, like Mamata Banerjee, might not be the best prime ministers in the next government, but yet they will make way into history.
The fourth candidate could be Mayawati or Patnaik. However, the former is a more likely candidate for she is positioned more close to the Centre and plays a more vital role in ensuring stability of the regime in Delhi.
Patnaik is more known to be a strong localised leader and we do not yet know if he will be a definite member in the post-2014 coalition. We have included him for he had once dumped the BJP but his closeness with Jayalalithaa could well lead him to the other camp. One never knows. Coming back to Mayawati, one thing is certain if she indeed becomes the prime minister. We will see more number of statues coming up across the country.
Left will miss out
The Left could have a close claim if it had a leader like Jyoti Basu in its ranks today. But after letting a golden opportunity go in 1996, the left politicians might have to wait another lifetime for a second chance.
Lack of national leadership has pushed us to this situation today
The PM-by-turn model could sound a bit unique but a lot of things are turning out to be 'unique' in Indian politics nowadays, isn't it? The decline of the central authority in India and the strengthening of the regional forces have given rise to a new reality in the national politics. We had seen the advent of coalition politics in India 24 years ago after the last majority rule of the Congress came to an end but yet we had national leaders to exert influence on political developments.
Today, the leadership factor has also got eroded alarmingly, leaving us to opt from top regional leaders to lead the nation. The situation is most likely to develop on these grounds for neither the Congress nor the BJP will be in a position to call shots by themselves in the near future. The Gandhis have weakened considerably while the BJP has a serious problem of succession in the post Vajpayee-Advani era.
Better to have many PMs in one govt instead of electing each by turn
The PM-by-turn model could be the best means to ensure that the next central government lasts its full term. Or otherwise, we will head for more chaos. India had seen a similar situation of turmoil between 1989 and 1999. It is better if we have more PMs in one government rather than going to expensive polls to elect the same faces separately.