West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had proposed the One-on-One formula to take on the BJP in 2019 general elections. According to this formula, the opposition, including the Congress party, would pitch their one common candidate with the backing of all other opposition parties against the candidate of the BJP across the country. Each and every regional party would contest against the BJP in its region of influence. For example, the BJD in Odisha, the TDP in Andhra Pradesh, RJD in Bihar, TMC in West Bengal, DMK in Tamil Nadu, TRS in Telangana, SP-BSP in Uttar Pradesh. In other states, Mamata Banerjee wants the Congress to take on the gigantic BJP.
The formula sounds promising but, if the Congress accepts this formula then it would be suicidal for its existence. There are only very few major states where there would be a direct showdown between the Congress and the BJP. These states are Rajasthan (25), Madhya Pradesh (29), Gujarat (26), Himachal Pradesh (4), Uttrakhand (5) and Chhattisgarh (11). These states have total number of 100 seats. In 2014, except Madhya Pradesh, the Congress party failed to open its account. In Madhya Pradesh, it won just 2 seats. The picture for the Congress is also not going to be very promising in 2019 as well.
In 2014 general elections, in all the states the Congress party failed to cross the double digits on its own. In Arunachal Pradesh, Haryana, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Lakshadweep, Puducherry it won 1 seat. The Congress in Telangana, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, and Uttar Pradesh won 2 seats. In Punjab and Assam, it won 3 seats. In West Bengal, the Congress party won 4 seats. In Karnataka, the Grand Old Party won 9 seats. In Kerala, UDF coalition led by the Congress party won 12 seats of which 8 were won by the Congress party.
Having said that, there is almost no possibility that the Congress party would entertain a formula such as One-on-One because that would lead to its annihilation from the political map of India. The Congress party won one-third of its seats against the regional parties. It emerged runner-up on 224 seats and on 17% of such seats, regional parties secured victory. In Kerala and Telangana, the Congress is in direct contests against the regional parties. And accepting a formula like One-on-One would mean that the Congress party would not field its candidate in both the states. Telangana and Kerala total have 37 Lok Sabha seats- 17 and 20 respectively. So a big loss considering the fact that India has seen governments’ falling because of one seat.
In states where there is a triangular contest (BJP vs Congress vs Regional Parties or any other national party) then also Congress is required to give up its claim to field its candidates. 19% of the seats of have triangular contest including states such as Delhi, Punjab, West Bengal etc.
The BJP will have a direct contest against regional parties in states such as Odisha and Uttar Pradesh which is 16% of the total seats. One important thing to note is that Odisha’s ruling party BJD is not interested in any Mahagathbandhan or third front nonsense.
In states such as Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, there is a contest between the regional party vs regional party.
Under the Mamata’s One-on-One formula, the Congress is required to adjudicate Maharashtra and Bihar to its allies. Both these states have total 88 Lok Sabha seats; Maharashtra- 48 and Bihar- 40. Again a big loss; loss of not just of seats but also of vote share, all the hard work that was done by party cadres will go in vain if the Congress says yes to such a bizarre formula. The One-on-One formula is only likely to benefit Mamata only. If all the other parties in the West Bengal extend their support then it would be very difficult for the BJP to outshine Mamata in the state in 2019 general elections. But it will give nothing to the Congress party. The TMC has no influence in rest of the states.
Not just the TMC but all other regional parties do not have anything promising to offer to the Congress. Most of the regional parties have no clout outside their state. Instead, the Congress party would end up giving their space to the regional parties and this, in turn, will also pave the way for the BJP to expand its clout. In addition to this, there is also no guarantee that regional parties would remain loyal to the alliance after the elections. In case of hung parliament, if regional parties get a better deal from the BJP then they might not hesitate in switching the side without any second thought. TDP, TMC, TRS in the past were NDA allies. Leadership issues would also emerge. The regional parties would never agree to work under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi. In fact, Mamata Banerjee has a very strong ambition of leading an alliance against the BJP. Regional parties see Rahul Gandhi as inept and novice.
To conclude, the only person who is going to benefit from the alliance is Mamata Banerjee. It is not likely to serve any benefit to the Congress and they are also not going to accept such a self-defeating formula which does not even guarantee that whether it would be able to achieve its objective or not. Instead of One-on-One formula, the Congress should employ Bihar like template it will guarantee some probability of success and it would also keep Congress relevant in Indian politics.