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B-Teams Shaping Up, Egos Melting in the Run-Up to 2019 Lok Sabha Battle

The BJP is bending over backwards in search of new allies and to retain current ones. As for the Congress, it has to be patient knowing fully well that allies would be hard to come by in the present situation.

Venkatesh Kesari |

Updated:August 13, 2018, 7:46 AM IST
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B-Teams Shaping Up, Egos Melting in the Run-Up to 2019 Lok Sabha Battle
Prime Minister Modi with BJD chief Naveen Patnaik (Twitter/@Naveen_Odisha)
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The just-concluded election for the post of Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha has again brought to focus the fast changing political equations less than a year before General Elections. These equations are compelling the national parties to redo their homework either for immediate or for long-term benefit.

The BJP is bending over backwards in search of new allies and to retain current ones. As for the Congress, it has to be patient knowing fully well that allies would be hard to come by in the present situation.

Opponents in states are willing to become friendly with rivals at the national level, while the fence-sitters are expected to take positions after the outcome of Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh later this year.

‘B Team’ of BJP

At least three regional parties, the Biju Janata Dal, Telangana Rashtra Samithi and the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP), are emerging as the potential BJP allies, who could back the saffron party after the 2019 Lok Sabha elections if the Narendra Modi-led NDA fails to get 273 seats. Their bonhomie came to the fore during the deputy chairman elections in the Rajya Sabha.

The BJD, TRS and the YSRCP may be opponents of the BJP in Odisha, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, respectively, but have been friendly with the Narendra Modi government by and large. While the TRS and the YSR Congress Party cannot go with the Congress fearing that this will help the Rahul Gandhi-led party to regain lost ground in the states, the BJD has never been comfortable with the Congress.

As for Andhra Pradesh, the TDP and the YSR Congress Party cannot remain on the same page. The BJD, led by Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, has been consistent in maintaining equidistance from the BJP and the Congress ever since it quit the NDA sometime ago.

The TRS and the YSR Congress Party cannot afford to have a pre-poll alliance with the BJP for any such move may mobilise minority votes in Andhra and Telangana against them.

Interestingly, Odisha, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh will vote in Assembly elections simultaneously with the Lok Sabha polls in April-May next year.

The BJD had extended partial or full support to the Modi government in the last four years on the issues of demonetisation, GST, surgical strikes, presidential and vice-presidential elections, and had stayed away from voting on the no-confidence motion against Modi government in the Lok Sabha.

Shiv Sena, Friend or Foe?

The sulking Shiv Sena had abstained from voting during the no-confidence motion, daring Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah while remaining in the NDA and sharing power with it at the Centre and in Maharashtra.

Interestingly, the Sena changed its strategy and voted in favour of the NDA nominee in the deputy chairman’s election. A break-up at this juncture doesn’t bode well for either ally.

“Maharashtra is burning on the issue of Maratha reservation. A united BJP-Shiv Sena could check the rival Congress-NCP combine in elections,” a party insider said.

Uddhav Thackeray might have announced that his Sena would go it alone in 2019 elections, but he may change tack if there are serious attempts to mollify the sulking ally from Maharashtra.

AAP-tight Kejriwal

Delhi-centric Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), led by Arvind Kejriwal, could follow the motto of ‘Ekla Chalo’ (Go Solo) after realising that it has no space either in the NDA or in the anti-BJP front.

The AAP wanted Congress president Rahul Gandhi to request Arvind Kejriwal for support in the deputy chairman’s election. But the Congress chief did not oblige him because this would not have changed the ground reality as far as numbers are concerned.

Secondly, the AAP remains Congress's political adversary in Delhi and Punjab. Besides, Kejriwal is considered a Delhi leader with prime ministerial ambitions. The Congress knows well that a direct or indirect alliance with the AAP would mean another opponent in Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana.

TMC and NCP Positions Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banejree, NCP chief Sharad Pawar and others have a soft corner for the AAP and have been open to working with the party to defeat the BJP in 2019.

Congress managers wanted Sharad Pawar to field his party nominee against NDA candidate Harivansh in the Rajya Sabha, but Pawar realised opposition did not have numbers He also knew well that the BJD and the AIADMK cannot associate with the Congress directly or indirectly.

The Congress’ wants to build a larger national coalition for 2019. But at the same time it does not want to concede the leadership of such a front to some.one like Pawar who has friends in all parties These calculations will continue to evolve as we get close to the big battle of 2019.

The author is a senior journalist. Views are personal.

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| Edited by: Nitya Thirumalai
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