Alliance arithmetic: BJP to beat opposition at its own game?

Written By: Rajesh Singh
Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, India Updated: Feb 25, 2019, 12:23 PM(IST)

File photo of Amit Shah and PM Narendra Modi. Photograph:( AFP )

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The Bharatiya Janata Party is finally getting its act together on the alliance front.

The Bharatiya Janata Party is finally getting its act together on the alliance front. Over the last few days, it managed to salvage its partnership with the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra; stitched a deal with the AIADMK and one other smaller outfit in Tamil Nadu; and seemingly placated the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) in Uttar Pradesh, which had threatened to quit the NDA. Senior BJP leaders have also reached out to another disgruntled NDA constituent, Apna Dal (Sonelal), in Uttar Pradesh. 

Besides, the party has set its sight on a few post-poll partnerships since it felt, for good reasons, that a pre-election understanding would be counter-productive. A later understanding with the YSR Congress Party in Andhra Pradesh is one such possibility.

A pre-poll tie-up between the BJP and the YSR Congress Party does not make sense because the latter’s leader Jagan Mohan Reddy is seeking to exploit the issue of his state not been given a special status in the upcoming elections, and here he wants to put the BJP-led NDA regime in the dock. At the same time, he is more opposed to Chandrababu Naidu and the TDP, who are his main rivals in Andhra Pradesh. Now that Naidu has quit the NDA, the coast is clear for Jagan Mohan Reddy to strike a bargain with the BJP post-results.  

In Telangana, the TRS is dependent on Muslim votes, which is why he has consistently humoured Asaduddin Owaisi, who has pockets of influence in the old Hyderabad city. Given that Owaisi is a bitter critic of the BJP and the TRS needs him more in the pre-poll stage than it needs the BJP, any understanding between the TRS and the BJP will have to wait until after the results are announced.

As for the BJD, the ruling party in Odisha is facing a severe challenge from the BJP this time around, and many poll pundits are seeing a surge in the number of BJP seats from the state following the Lok Sabha polls. 

Since both the BJP and the BJD have now locked horns, any pact can happen only after the election dust has settled down. It must be remembered that in the five years gone by, both the BJD and the YSR Congress party, especially the BJD, had backed many of the Modi government’s initiatives. More importantly, it has maintained a distance from the various ‘third front’ confabulations across the country. 

That said, the deal between the Shiv Sena and the BJP is the most important development of all. Maharashtra is an important state, contributing 48 seats to the Lok Sabha. Most poll analysts had pointed out that, if the two parties contested separately — and against each other as a consequence — both would be major losers, and the gainer would be the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) alliance. It was perhaps this realisation than a sudden spurt of love for each other that compelled the warring allies to bury the hatchet.

This also explains the give and take both the parties agreed to, with the Sena settling for a couple of seats lesser than the BJP for the Lok Sabha and the BJP accepting a 50:50 sharing basis for the state Assembly polls that are to follow in a few months of the general elections. The Sena-BJP pact has seriously undermined the prospects of the Congress-NCP coalition. It would be wrong to say that all creases have been ironed out, but a tentative partnership is still better than no partnership.  

In Uttar Pradesh, both the Apna Dal (Sonelal) and the SBSP are small players but they have a committed vote base. The latter had won no Lok Sabha seat in 2014 but did better in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls after it allied with the BJP, winning four constituencies. Its leader OP Rajbhar has had problems with the Yogi Adityanath government in the state, but things appear to have settled down somewhat after his marathon meeting with BJP president Amit Shah. 

Yet, the final word is yet to be said, since the seat-sharing matter remains to be tackled. Apna Dal (Sonelal) too has grievances similar to that of the SBSP — that big brother BJP has not given it the respect it deserves. Its leader Anupriya Patel is a Minister in Modi’s government but there is a feeling that the party has been neglected but the BJP, more especially after the latter rode to an unprecedented victory in the last State polls. Given the tough challenge it faces in Uttar Pradesh from the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party combine, the BJP would not want its allies in the state to walk away.   

Will the outreach and the alliances, new and old, work for the BJP? In Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, they should have an impact. One is not sure about Tamil Nadu, though, where the AIADMK has become unpopular, and weak after a split in the party. Its unpopularity could drag down the BJP (which, not having a big mass base there, has to depend on the regional ally), as well as the other regional partner, the PMK.

Nevertheless, with every seat counting in what is billed as a furiously contested 2019 Lok Sabha election, the BJP can at least take heart from the alliances it has managed to secure.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL.)

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