Forget the chemistry or lack of it between the BJP and its allies, it’s the mathematics that’s vital
BJP president Amit Shah‘s outreach to National Democratic Alliance allies is gathering pace. Having already met Ram Vilas Paswan earlier this week and Uddhav Thackeray on Wednesday, he is sitting down with the Badals next. Though we have no access to his itinerary, other meetings will surely follow. But even as Shah finished speaking with Thackeray late on Wednesday night, he woke up to the news on Thursday morning that another ally, the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) of Upendra Kushwaha which is an albeit smaller component the NDA in Bihar — had snapped ties with the BJP. Whatever the spin which will surely be put on this separation, the optics are not good. Shah, one suspects, given the General Election is still 10 months away, is not looking at optics.There is a reason why Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have let some BJP allies go, as it were. The current leadership of the party clearly does not believe that it has hit its maximum electoral potential at one-third of the popular vote and a little over one-third of seats in the Lok Sabha. Internal assessments by the party have been centered around where the BJP needs allies and where party has grown enough to win a significant number of seats without a pre-poll alliance.
Assessed with this context in mind, the big decision not to accede to N Chandrababu Naidu’s demand for a special package for Andhra Pradesh post bifurcation makes sense, because the BJP can now contest all seats in the State and expect to win more than it would have in an alliance with the TDP which would have contested the lion’s share of seats as the senior partner. The BJP assessment seems to be that any seat adjustment between the TDP and the Congress will be problematic on the ground. The Left has pockets of support and is likely to go with Naidu, which the BJP think-tank calculates will ensure a three-way contest between the TDP-Left, Congress and itself even if there is some measure of seat adjustment among the parties opposed to it, which is an ideal scenario for the BJP in which to unleash the Modi campaign.
Any parting of ways with the Shiv Sena, however, despite the BJP having overtaken its erstwhile senior partner both in terms of vote-share and seats at the Assembly as well as Lok Sabha levels, would be tricky. First, is the body blow that would be delivered to Hindutva consolidation; secondly, the Shiv Sena and BJP support base does overlap and as the vote percentages recorded by each party in the recent by-polls in Maharashtra show, together they will be in a position to do well in the State which has a massive 48 Lok Sabha seats up for grabs, especially as the index of Opposition unity will be high in the State. The BJP will stoop to conquer, we predict.
In Bihar, despite the noises being made by Nitish Kumar and the JDU which are clearly aimed at extracting concessions from the BJP, our reckoning is the unity of anti-BJP parties is likely to be the maximum in the country so the ruling combine will have to fight together rather than sink separately. So, a Modi-Shah outreach to Nitish is very much on the cards. As for Punjab, while the mainly urban Hindu-Jat Sikh social coalition forged as a result of the BJP-Akali Dal alliance has paid dividends in the past, Badal family misrule for over a decade has still neither been forgotten nor forgiven by the people. Shah and team are likely to do what it takes to keep the alliance going, betting on Modi’s charisma to see them through by emphasizing that the election is for Parliament not the Assembly. Also, do keep an eye open for BJP overtures to the BJD in Orissa and TRS in Telangana at some point. Most likely post-poll.