In the third segment of the series State of the Parties, we look at the political formulations that seek to be a part of the next government at the Centre. Their role will be largely behind the scenes, hoping to get the best bargain for themselves – and for the big players.
The Shiromani Akali Dal is the most interesting of the three major regional formations that are Track II soldiers for the big guns. It is the oldest regional force in the country – probably the second-oldest party after the Congress.
This longevity gives it the experience and the instincts to spot a winner and swing that way. At the moment, the Akalis are working on the possibility of an NDA or a Third Front government.
Although not a great modern, Parkash Singh Badal is in his fifth term as chief minister. This makes him the most powerful (politically) Sikh in the world right now.
The NCP (Nationalist Congress Party), strictly speaking, has no reason to exist. The party has made peace with Sonia Gandhi's Italian origins, which was the only reason why the NCP was formed.
And Sharad Pawar will not contest elections any more. All this should logically lead to the NCP merging with the Congress.
But this is about a pound of flesh. NCP seniors will get what they want only if they still have a functional party.
So, they exist. Pawar was the first to quantify the next government.
He said weeks ago the party that wins 180 seats would form the government. He added the Congress looked like getting 180 seats. This, of course, is the germ of the idea of UPA3.
Such is the importance of the NCP.
The Biju Janata Dal (BJD) is a quaint one. Away from the limelight, Naveen Patnaik has all but taken full control of Odisha. At the moment, the BJD is still friends with the Left. But it could take a fresh look at the NDA, although the Narendra Modi factor is an irritant.
Together, the Akalis, the NCP and the BJD are The Accomplices – their role will be to help cobble the numbers for their coalitions.