Amid growing perception that DMK is all set to sweep Tamil Nadu in the upcoming Lok Sabha election as AIADMK withers away, several opposition parties are jostling to tie up with the Dravidian party for the Lok Sabha polls in the hope of improving their seat tally in the next Parliament.
The result is a huge dilemma for DMK chief Stalin. The Congress has asked for five seats, the same as it had in the arrangement with Karunanidhi’s DMK in 2014. CPM has asked for two, CPI has asked for two. And then there are smaller Tamil parties like MDMK and VCK which are waiting in the wings for a share of the pie too.
If Stalin gives into these pressures, his party will have just about 25/26 seats to contest out of Tamil Nadu’s 39 seats. Even if DMK manages to win all, the tally will make him a smaller player in a non- BJP government, if it is formed, than Trinamool’s MamataBanerjee and BSP’s Mayawati. That means less leverage in the coalition.
Interestingly, while the broad contours of the alliance have been settled, there’s not even a whisper on the seat sharing formula. It looks like tough bargaining ahead.
There’s a new political gambit called the Kejriwal formula that allows rival leaders to be present at common dharnas without sharing the dais. Remember what happened at last year’s farmers’ rally at Jantar Mantar which was to be addressed by bitter opponents Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal?
Their interlocutors had worked out a compromise whereby the two leaders wriggled out of appearing on the dais together. First, Kejriwal addressed the rally. After he left, Rahul went to Jantar Mantar and spoke.
Left leaders and Mamata Banerjee invoked the same formula for Kejriwal’s dharna against the Modigovernment at Jantar Mantar on the last day of Parliament. Kejriwal had invited both Bengal rivals to his dharna, putting them in a bind. How could they be seen sharing the same stage?
It was the Left that suggested the Kejriwal formula. The Delhi chief minister laughingly accepted. And so, CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury and CPI MP D Raja joined the dharna first and were invited to speak by Kejriwal.
Mamata was supposed to arrive after they left but she happened to reach while they were still there. So instead of going to the stage where the Left leaders were present, she sat outside the tent at a specially prepared area for her. Some jokingly dubbed it the waiting area.
Mamata staged a sit-in there while Yechury and Raja spoke from the dais. After they departed, she entered the tent and joined Kejriwal on stage. In this way, she managed to avoid being seen with her hated opponents, the Left.
Mamata enthralled the crowd with her heavily accented Hindi (for which she apologized), her rendition of Gandhi’s favourite hymn, Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram, and her emotional declaration of sacrificing her life to save the nation.
Interestingly, despite the bitterness between Mamata and the Left, the Bengal chief minister said that she is ready to work with the Congress and the Left to fight the BJP nationally. She added a caveat. She clarified that at the state level, she and the Left will remain at loggerheads.
Congress MP from Bengal Adhir Ranjan Chaudhury’s attack on the Trinamool Congress on the last day of Parliament took many in the Congress by surprise.
Although Sonia Gandhi kept silent while Chaudhury went hammer and tongs at Mamata Banerjee’s party, the diatribe has not gone down well with Congress leaders and the rest of the opposition.
In fact, National Conference MP Farooq Abdullah was seen talking and gesturing to Sonia to stop Chaudhury from ripping opposition unity to shreds with his anti-Mamata talk. This was the last day of the 16th Lok Sabha and instead of presenting a united face to oppose Modi, the opposition was fighting among itself.
BJP MPs were enjoying the sight of opposition versus opposition. They thumped their tables with glee as Chaudhury spoke. And then, when Left MP Mohd Salim joined Chaudhary to hit out at the Trinamool, ruling party benches got more excited.
While the Left’s attack on Trinamool is understandable, Congress can’t understand what prompted Chaudhury to rip apart opposition unity on the last day of the 16th Lok Sabha. Some in the party have started speculating whether he’s preparing to jump ship and join the BJP.
The opposition certainly presented a sorry sight. And although Sonia Gandhi attempted to soothe Mamata’s ruffled feathers by talking about remaining friends even as they accuse each other, it was not enough. Mamata left Parliament in a towering rage.
It took Sharad Pawar’s famed political skills and interventions by other opposition leaders to calm her down. Peace was finally restored when Rahul Gandhi joined the impromptu dinner arranged by Pawar to repair the damage that Chaudhury caused.
Nominated Rajya Sabha MP Suresh Gopi, now a member of the BJP as well, was left red-faced recently. Gopi, who is also a well known Malayali film star, had gone over to talk to DMK MP Siva on one of the few occasions the Upper House functioned briefly. On his way back to his seat, he tripped on a cable and fell in true filmi style to avoid injuring himself. The dramatic act attracted the attention of Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu who was presiding over the House at that point.
Naidu smiled and chided Gopi. This is what happens when you try to cross the floor to the other side, he joked.