OK, it's now very clear that we have at least 10 potential candidates for the Prime Ministership. Not all of them are worthy or deserving. But that's the charm of democracy. Ain't it? We only get what we deserve. If you want to know who stands the best chance, read on...
Unfortunately for this man, the Congress can only form a stable government, if the commies are part of the coalition jingbang. And the Karat clones share a healthy dislike for him, thanks to the nuclear deal. So chances of living in Race Course Road is quite low. But what can swing in his favour is: he is the most erudite, decent and experienced man around to steer the nation during a recession. If the Leftists suffer a loss in Kerala and do just-about-ok in West Bengal, then Manmohan might just make it as the most acceptable compromise candidate.
Pratibha Patil holds the key to Advani's fate. If she invites the UPA first, then they'll make sure, Advani will be denied his date with destiny. But if the Congress fails to massage egos, then Sindhi bhai will come into play. Everyone's aware of his deep desire to become PM. He's likely to strike deals with Mayawati, Jayalalitha and Chandrababu. Even if it means naming Mayawati as Deputy PM.
The lady who 'sacrificed' the post last time around has a new pliant president who won't ask searching questions, if she decides to stake a claim now. The way Sonia will play the game is to present Manmohan as her PM candidate. He will be unacceptable to the Left. Clamour will start for Pranab or Rahul as PM. Rahul will publicly decline the post (Sacrifice Episode 2). Congressman won't want Sharad Pawar as PM. Laloo, Paswan & all and sundry congressman will issue an appeal to the Sonia to bail out India in her hour of crisis. The battle-bruised leftists might agree to her name. The pro-congress press in India will urge her to take over the mantle. Priyanka will publicly announce her misgivings saying 'she worries for her mom's life'. After a lot of drama, Sonia might just give in to her secret desire to rule India. The only thing that might act as a disincentive is hard bargaining by Jayalalitha & Mayawati. Jaya will want Sonia to dismiss Karunanidhi and Maya will want all cases dropped against her. Will Ms. Maino bite the bullet?
Once Manmohan gets politely declined by the left, a whisper campaign will start for annointing Young Rahul as PM. But Young Rahul will rule himself out of the equation by making a stirring 'I am not yet ready' speech. And he will milk this 'sacrifice' card during the next election.
He's the Narasimha Rao in waiting. He's a proven administrator. And is wilier than Sharad Pawar. Mamata will be for him. West Bengal will root for him. Leftists may not veto his name. Laloo won't mind him. Maya too, may not. But one person might fear him. That's Sonia. She will spike his name, somehow.
Genial, honest, loyal and goes by the book. When Pranab's name starts doing the rounds, 10 Janpath will float AK Antony's. Who knows, our man might just get lucky.
If Sharad Pawar throws his hat in the ring, he will have 300 supporters in the new Lok Sabha. The only thing that might be a hurdle is the election results. Congress-NCP may not sweep Maharashtra. And NCP might just end up with 15 seats. No self-respecting congressman will allow Pawar to rule India with 15 seats. Especially Sonia. As a countermove, she might suggest her own name :-) When faced with such a deadlock, our man might be tempted to take the NDA support and form a government. But Pawar is never known for the daring. He will prefer to beat the system while staying in the system. So Pawar's chances are minimal.
Nitish will become a media darling after the elections. They will consciously project him as the new secular-development face of India. Nitish has friends across the board. The leftists are for him. Naveen Patnaik will back him. The BJP will reluctantly play second fiddle to him (if it means keeping congress out). Even Chandrababu will be okay with him. One man who might not relish this is Sharad Yadav (the NDA convenor) who might just suggest that Nitish should continue the good work in Bihar. If NDA pips UPA with more seats and if BJP emerges as the single largest party, then this scenario will come into play. Else, be prepared for Nitish as PM, 2 or 3 years from now.
Leftists may not do well in Kerala. They might just suffer a few losses in West Bengal. Their overall tally is likely to be lesser this time. Given this background, even the leftists may not moot Karat for the big post.
She might do well in Tamil Nadu. But the media may not celebrate her as much as, say a Nitish Kumar. 25 seats is what she might end up with. Will this be enough to catapult her to the gaddi? I don't think so.
Reports say, that Maya may not fare that well. Mainstream newspapers always get BSP's tally wrong. So I won't give these 'reports' much credence. If Maya bags 35 seats, she's in a good position to negotiate with the NDA & UPA. I don't see the Congress bidding goodbye to Mulayam if he gets 30 seats. Because a Mulayam is more dependable than a Maya. But LK Advani might. So you may still see her as India's second Dalit Deputy Prime Minister (Jagjivan Ram was the first).
MULAYAM SINGH YADAV
If Mulayam Singh maxes the UP election, Congress will kiss and make up with him. And the Deputy Prime Minster's post will be his.
I am not taking into account Chandrababu Naidu as he might just decide to focus on sticking to Andhra Pradesh for now.
My overall take is it might be Sonia, Manmohan, Nitish or Pawar. My gutfeel tells me it's gonna be Manmohan again.