Despite three powerful, mercurial and authoritarian women of Indian politics – Mayawati, Mamata Banerjee and J Jayalalitha – together netting a handsome tally of 70-75 seats in the 16th Lok Sabha according to the exit poll results, their power to bargain at the Centre seems defanged, as the BJP-led NDA is predicted to be heading for a landslide victory, surpassing the magic halfway figure of 272 on its own.
The BJP’s prime ministerial Narendra Modi will have a great sigh of relief. More so, for being spared the whims of these unpredictable women, who had made the NDA’s other prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, sweat a decade ago. Vajpayee, despite being a tall political leader and accommodating in nature, had failed to keep them in good humour. Jayalalitha had pulled the plug, which resulted in a loss of the vote of confidence for the Vajpayee government on the floor of Parliament in 1999 after a 13-month rule.
The exit polls show at least two of the women, West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee and her Tamil Nadu counterpart J Jayalalitha of the AIADMK, doing well, winning 27-30 seats each. Both were part of previous NDA regime led by Vajpayee. BSP supremo Mayawati is, however, on a weak footing, with just 8-14 seats, according to the different exit polls. Even though the three of them will contribute 70 MPs in the Lok Sabha, they will hardly be in a position to politically bargain.
Ahead of the exit poll results, it was believed the three women, harbouring prime ministerial aspirations of their own, will make the next prime minister sweat in return for their support. Together, their states have a total of 161 seats in the Lok Sabha, and they are expected to win 70-75 seats. With such a show, they could also form a powerful Opposition block in the Lok Sabha, where the Congress will have minimal numbers.
All the three parties are rooted in their personalities to the extent that none of their members can speak without permission from these women, who reprimand, or even expel their MPs at the drop of a hat. All three women are also known for having a certain disregard for the media, and do not clamour for attention. Jayalalithaa rarely addresses press conferences, and keeps her comments to a minimum; Mamata Banerjee ridicules journalists, though is accessible, and Mayawati remains utterly suspicious of the media.
The ruling AIADMK of Jayalalithaa has made huge gains in Tamil Nadu. According to CNN-IBN-CSDS- post-poll survey the party is likely to get 22-28 seats with 39% votes. The main opposition DMK is expected to get 7-11 seats with 26% votes. The BJP alliance may get 4-6 seats with 16% votes. The Congress is projected to get 9% votes with no seats and the others may get 10% votes. A big victory for Jayalalithaa may change political equations in the state, but with the NDA getting its own numbers, she may no longer play a major role at the Centre. Similarly, in UP, most exit polls have predicted seats in the range of 8-14 for the BSP, coming third after arch rival the SP, which is supposed to net some 13-17 seats.
Mamata Banerjee, despite having spewed venom against the BJP in the past, has been a partner in the NDA during the Vajpayee era. Mayawati, too, has had past alliances with the BJP, but has deserted it at crucial times.
However, as exit poll results show, Modi may be spared having to charm these three mercurial women and head a stable government at the Centre.