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Sunday, May 22, 2016

the political alliances ~ election results ~ and the Presidential race in US

In a State where even local leaders of principal parties cannot be seen together, the forging of new alliance was hailed as a great move – but has become the butt of memes.  The coming together of Vijaykant, popularly known as "Captain" , becoming  chief ministerial candidate of the People's Welfare Front (PWF) was hailed as a master stroke ! – then came the reports his wife Premalatha was the  kingmaker. A group from the same party charged that DMDK was controlled not by the actor  but by his wife Premalatha, and were sacked from the party duly. 

The children released their own statement from Colorado ski country in 1993 even as paparazzi followed them everywhere seeking one. Don Jr. was 15, Ivanka 12, Eric 9.  It read - “in discussions among ourselves, we decided to stay in Aspen with our mother and grandmother.” They were responding to their remarriage of their father  after a spectacular divorce from their mother !!

Miles away, Democrats knew a general election battle between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump would be rough, but many never considered the potential of a nailbiter. During a primary in which Trump usurped the GOP establishment, alienated crucial sectors of the general electorate on issues like immigration and abortion and dinged his own approval ratings, many Democrats salivated at talk of a November duel with the billionaire.

It is all about - Donald John Trump, a businessman, politician, television personality, author, and the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party for President of the United States in the 2016 election. Trump is the Chairman and President of The Trump Organization, as well as the founder of the gaming and hotel enterprise Trump Entertainment Resorts.  Trump's father was New York City real estate developer Fred Trump.  Trump first campaigned for the U.S. presidency in 2000, and withdrew before any votes were cast. On June 16, 2015, he again announced his candidacy for president, as a Republican. Trump became known for his opposition to illegal immigration, his opposition to various free-trade agreements that he regards as unfair, his frequently non-interventionist views on foreign policy, and his proposal to temporarily ban foreign Muslims from entering the United States until Congress can determine how to address Islamic terrorism. Trump quickly emerged as the front-runner for the Republican nomination. After Trump won the 2016 Indiana primary, his main rival, Ted Cruz, suspended his campaign. Accordingly, Republican chairman Reince Priebus declared Trump the party's presumptive presidential nominee. Trump's final remaining Republican rival, John Kasich, suspended his campaign the next day.

However, still a  powerful array of the Republican Party’s largest financial backers remains deeply resistant to Trump’s presidential candidacy, forming a wall of opposition that could make it exceedingly difficult for him to meet his goal of raising $1 billion before the November election. NY reports that more than a dozen of the party’s most reliable individual contributors and wealthy families indicated that they would not give to or raise money for Mr. Trump.  Trump  has succeeded while defying conventions of presidential campaigning, relying on media attention and large rallies to fire up supporters, and funding his operation with a mix of his own money and small-dollar contributions. The formula for sure would be tested as he presents himself to a far larger audience of voters.

The United States presidential election of 2016, scheduled for Tuesday, November 8, 2016, will be the 58th quadrennial U.S. presidential election. Voters will select presidential electors who in turn will elect a new president and vice president through the Electoral College. The term limit established in the 22nd  amendment to the United States Constitution prevents the incumbent President, Barack Obama, of the Democratic Party, from being elected to a third term. The series of presidential primary elections and caucuses is taking place between February 1 and June 14, 2016, staggered among the 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. This nominating process is also an indirect election, where voters cast ballots for a slate of delegates to a political party's nominating convention, who then in turn elect their party's presidential nominee.

Trump is expected to face the as of yet undetermined presidential nominee of the Democratic Party in the general election, presumably either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. Reports suggest that Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders from Vermont has outraised his rival Hillary Clinton in the Democratic race to the White House for the fourth consecutive month. Sanders’campaign on Friday filed a report with the Federal Election Commission showing he raised more than $26.9 million in April, out-raising Secretary Clinton for the fourth month in a row. He has raised more than $212 million since the start of the campaign.

Things are far different than the way it happens here and the way we understand the elections here in India. Five Assembly elections, and five different winners. Voters have not distributed their favours equitably. The Congress, the only party with a realistic chance of being part of a winning coalition in all the five elections, won only one, the least important politically, the Union Territory of Puducherry.  In Assam, it ceded ground to its principal rival at the national level, the Bharatiya Janata Party, for the first time. In Kerala, where it headed a coalition government as the leading member of the United Democratic Front, it lost heavily to the Left Democratic Front led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist). In West Bengal, the party’s incongruous alliance with the Left Front failed to enthuse voters, who saw it as devious and opportunistic. And in Tamil Nadu, the revival of the alliance with the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam yielded little dividend for the Congress.

It’s amazing how politicians interpret every election in their favour —irrespective of whether they win or lose. In this five-state election (a mini general election), the primary loser is the Congress.  But their leaders say that  “We will review the situation and come back with renewed vigour.” Not a word about its inability to present a new face in Assam in place of the tired old face of Tarun Gogoi, or the irrelevance it has achieved in Bengal, or its virtual non-existence in Tamil Nadu, or the way the entrenched Congress coalition in Kerala destroyed itself through corruption and the make-believe politics of Oommen Chandy.

In West Bengal, the  arithmetic was perfect, but the chemistry did not work well.  Our great analyst Thuglak Cho has written so many times that in elections, when there is an alliance, it does not always happen that you add 2 + 2 together. The Congress-Communist combined alliance forged on the eve of the state Assembly polls in West Bengal did not prove good enough to dislodge the "autocratic and fascist Mamata Banerjee government." The electoral understanding  of CPM & Congress was a step backward for both the parties – and now comes the bad news that the Election Commission is likely to review the CPM's recognition as a national party in the aftermath of the party's poor showing in the assembly polls in West Bengal.  TOI reported that EC may favour a change in the criteria for the nation party tag, opting for reviews every two polls instead of the prevailing five-yearly assessments.  CPM's identity as a 'national party' -which entitles it to privileges such as free airtime on national media for campaigning and exemption of travel expenditure by 40 VVIP campaigners from being billed to the candidate -had come under threat after the party returned only nine MPs to the Lok Sabha in 2014. As per the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, a party is recognised as being 'national' if it has 11 Lok Sabha MPs from at least three states, or polls at least 6% of votes in Lok Sabha assembly polls in at least four states in addition to winning 4 Lok Sabha seats. Being recognized as a state party in four or more states also allows the party to claim the national tag.

For the first time, there will be no red representative in Tamilnadu Assembly.  Marxists like to believe that they read, and therefore understand, history. Perhaps. But the jury is still out on whether they learn anything from the past.  After being in power for decades in WB, in 2011, the CPI(M) was defeated by the laws of incumbency that can afflict any political organisation. In 2016, it has been destroyed because it betrayed its own ideology, and abandoned principle in search of a cheap return ticket to power.

Perhaps no political analyst saw this coming – the  DMDK contested in 104 seats, won nothing and saw its vote share drop to a paltry 2.4 percent and failed to make a mark. Its leader Vijaykant lost his deposit in the Ulundurpettai constituency, by a margin of 47,500 votes. The party will now to have to revaluate its positioning in Tamil Nadu's politics if it wants to make a comeback. Worser still, the party has been stripped of its recognition as a 'state party' by the Election Commission, news agency ANI  reported.  The main impact of the loss of the 'state party' status for the DMDK means it will no longer have exclusive access to the drum symbol (murasu in Tamil and nagara in Hindi).

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

22nd May 2016.

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