Notwithstanding Miss Mamata Banerjee’s splendid victory in the West Bengal Municipal polls the challenge to her is not over. She has yet to win the assembly polls to form the government in West Bengal. From the poll results two prospects emerge. First, if the Congress goes it alone in the assembly polls it will most likely be wiped out from West Bengal. Second, if the Trinamool Congress wants an assured victory in the assembly polls it must ally with the Congress. Both parties need each other. Both parties may have to negotiate an alliance. To achieve that amicably is a great challenge. It is also a great opportunity. If Mamata Banerjee seizes that opportunity she could become the catalyst to change politics in India.
Both parties need to recognize some political realities. First, that the public desperately seeks stable governments in the centre as well as in the states to provide proper governance. Coalition governments do not deliver that. Second, in a changing India a genuine federal polity has become imperative. Coalitions deliver instability, opportunistic alliances and horse trading. Coalitions do not deliver federalism that denotes decentralized stability. Now events have created a unique opportunity to usher genuine federalism that would signal a paradigm shift in India’s politics.
The negotiations between the Congress and Trinamool that will precede the assembly polls will doubtless include hard bargaining. However if both parties have courage to break new ground, conflict could minimize. Both parties would want to maximize the strength of the government in both the state and later in the centre. This is how very simply and effectively that can be done.
Instead of disputing over the share of seats in West Bengal the Trinamool should make a different demand. It should demand that all candidates for the assembly polls must contest under the Trinamool symbol even if they belong to the Congress. In return Trinamool should undertake to contest all parliamentary seats by its candidates in the next poll under the Congress symbol.
Recognizing the imperatives of recent history the Congress should alter its name from Indian National Congress to Indian Federal Congress. It should suitably amend its constitution to allow regional nomenclatures to its affiliates in all states. The regional parties that join this proposed federal party would not lose their identity in the first instance. Recognition to them by the Election Commission flows from their strength in the state assemblies. Only if this experiment succeeds, and one has little doubt that it will, might there be full and voluntary merger of identities even in some if not all states. If implemented this proposal would preclude political defection. It would restore stable governments.