Will it forget its campaign rhetoric and re-discover "common space" with the Congress, as Rahul Gandhi hopes? Alternatively, will it turn the heat on the Congress to support a Third Front Government?
The pro-Congress TV channels are getting increasingly desperate. They have discovered fissures between an intransigent Prakash Karat and a flexible Sitaram Yechuri. Significance is being attached to the CPI(M) politburo meeting on May 18. On CNN-IBN, Sagarika Ghose suggested that the Left would bear the responsibility for a Hindutva government led by L.K. Advani and Narendra Modi. On Times Now, Outlook editor Vinod Mehta revealed that talks between the Congress and CPI(M) over government formation has already begun!
Pranab Mukherjee indicated last evening that he may not even be averse to having another look at the Indo-US nuclear agreement. With each passing day pressure is going to mount on the CPI(M) to cave in to the Congress, after extracting policy concessions. There may even be pressure from a dragon across the Himalayas and the Islamic lobby.
My own take on the subject is totally different. Those close to the CPI(M) leadership are very clear that there is ABSOLUTELY NO WAY the party will endorse a Congress Prime Minister--not Manmohan Singh and not Pranab Mukherjee. This position is even more enthusiastically backed by the CPI, RSP and FB.
It would rather sit in the opposition.
Karat would have to be ousted in a central committee coup for the old Harkishen Singh Surjeet line to prevail.
The CPI(M) believes that its pre-poll Third Front will cumulatively have more seats than the Congress. It feels that Sharad Pawar, Lalu Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan will join this initiative. If the enlarged Third Front numbers fall below that of the Congress, its efficacy will be undermined.
If the Congress muscles its way into having Manmohan Singh sworn in as PM, the Left will probably vote against it, if possible bring it down in 13 days and then have another government--led by a compromise choice--sworn in. The Left wants Congress to support the Third Front from outside. However, they may compromise by agreeing to Congress participation in a UPA Government led by a non-Congress PM.
If the Congress finds that it cannot have its PM, the family may decide to sit in the opposition. That would make a NDA Government inevitable.
The exact course will be known after the results come in. On the ground, the Left Front in West Bengal is making the most of the Congress' overtures. The growing suspicion between the Congress and Mamata as a result of this may lead to the Left recovering ground in some of the marginals that vote in the 5th phase.
When the election was announced, the Left was fearful of crossing 30 seats. It is now hopeful of crossing 40.
Karat is smiling because the Left is once again back in the centre stage. Will he still be smiling if the BJP emerges as the number one party? Karat has assumed that BJP no longer poses any significant challenge.
If Karat is proved wrong, we may see a very different ball game with the Bengal party flexing its muscle.
[My assessment of Phase 4 will, hopefully, be ready on Friday evening/ Saturday morning]