Shiv Sena May Force Snap Polls in Maharashtra to Exploit BJP’s Worst Showing Under Modi-Shah
After this round of Assembly elections, the BJP’s bargaining power vis-à-vis its allies stands diminished.
File photo of Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray. (PTI)
The shocking loss of power in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan has suddenly made things a little complicated for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his chief political strategist, Amit Shah.
The BJP needs friends ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. Mission 350 has been replaced with the search for allies — both sulking and potential ones.
Shiv Sena, the oldest ally, has in the last four and a half years played the role of opposition in Maharashtra and Delhi. Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray congratulated the electorate for the verdict against the BJP in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. On the other hand, Janata Dal (United) president and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and Akali Dal's Parkash Singh Badal did not comment on the results immediately.
Sena mouthpiece Saamana in its editorial on Wednesday said the “arrogance” of the NDA leaders precipitated the rout. The voters, it said, have made all five poll-bound states ‘BJP-mukt’. The Sena congratulated Congress president Rahul Gandhi for the electoral success.
When it rains it pours. After this round of Assembly elections, the BJP’s bargaining power vis-à-vis its allies stands diminished. This is because all aces up Modi’s sleeve, which the Prime Minister tested in this semi-final against the Congress ahead of Lok Sabha polls, did not seem to have a direct impact. Dynasty, corruption, chaiwala, naamdar versus kaamdar and even Ram Temple issue have shown signs of diminishing returns.
People perhaps want to see some tangible development in the PM’s call to fight corruption and black money.
There are reports that a channel of communication between Uddhav Thackeray and Sharad Pawar is already open. The undeclared strategy of the Congress, NCP and Shiv Sena is to single out the BJP which has been eating into the support base of all three parties. A weakened BJP will help Shiv Sena regain its status of senior partner in Maharashtra.
The Shiv Sena wants the BJP to advance the Maharashtra Assembly elections and hold it together with the Lok Sabha elections in April-May, 2019. The alliance, Sena feels should hold good for both Assembly and Lok Sabha polls.
This insistence on Sena’s part emanates from the developments after 2014 when the BJP dumped its ally in Assembly elections after having borne the fruits of alliance in general elections.
In the current situation and like Uddhav Thackeray, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar will also have to make a cost-benefit assessment of aligning with the BJP. Nitish Kumar's re-association with the BJP has made a dent in his party's support base among minorities in Bihar. The Sangh Parivar's clamour of “mandir wahin banayenge" would push minorities further towards the RJD-Congress alliance.
While the BJP cannot leave Ayodhya, its main plank in the Lok Sabha polls, the JD(U) and Ram Vilas Paswan's Lok Janashakti Party cannot afford to support it, directly or indirectly. The real issue is whether allies can assert themselves to temper BJP’s Mandir rhetoric.
While Uddhav Thackeray has kept his options open in Maharashtra despite sharing power with the BJP, Nitish Kumar has very few left after re-joining the BJP-led front in Bihar.
The BJP under Narendra Modi and Amit Shah thus far has not been able to attract allies in the southern peninsula. The YSR Congress Party of Jaganmohan Reddy needs minority votes in its fight against Chandrababu Naidu’s TDP next year. In West Bengal and Odisha, the BJP will have to go alone. Same may be the case in Tamil Nadu if the alliance with the AIDMK does not materialise. The AGP in Assam is already miffed with the Modi government on the issue of Citizenship’s Bill.
(Author is a senior journalist. Views are personal)
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