Analysis: BJP Now Nationally Wants Partners From 'Non-Hindutva' Space

Analysis: BJP Now Nationally Wants Partners From 'Non-Hindutva' Space

Insiders say the BJP is now moving swiftly and aggressively to get as many regional leaders as possible on their side — mainly in states like Maharashtra, Bihar and Bengal where regional parties have emerged as a big force in the past few decades

Rohit ChandavarkarUpdated: Tuesday, February 20, 2024, 08:47 PM IST
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If there is one phenomenon common in the political space in many states of India currently, it is the buzz about which big leader from either the Congress party or some regional party is likely to either cross over to the BJP or align themselves with the BJP. From Bihar to Madhya Pradesh to Maharashtra to Rajasthan, one sees the media getting into constant speculation about which big face from some party that is opposed to the BJP is likely to announce his/her support to the BJP. Just as the headlines about senior Congress leader from Maharashtra Ashok Chavan quitting the party and joining the BJP faded, the buzz about senior leader from Madhya Pradesh Kamal Nath switching sides has erupted! Why are so many leaders from all over the country switching sides?

It is very interesting to see what is happening behind the curtains in all the cases of big leaders switching sides just a few months before the important Lok Sabha elections in the country. It is obvious that in almost every case the BJP has made the first move about deciding whom they want on their side in order to achieve the social engineering target designed by their election strategists. A lot of planning and work is being put behind every big crossover that is seen happening in various parts of the country. From Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s U-turn to Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar’s “change of heart”, every dramatic action seen happening on the “political stage” has some script that has been carefully written by the BJP’s strategists.

The gossip about senior Maharashtra Congress leader Ashok Chavan crossing over to the BJP has been on for over a year now. Obviously some meetings between Chavan and BJP’s state leadership have been taking place and the information about those gets leaked because leaders can never move around alone. They have to take their security staff, their personal assistants and others with them, so when two leaders meet at some secret location, both sides have at least 10-15 people with them. That’s how the information leaks and when multiple meetings happen to decide modalities it takes time for the final outcome to be seen on the ground. Since the BJP has now taken multiple political partners in states like Maharashtra, what is happening is that the number of stakeholders is high and that makes the information about possible defections (or purpose behind the defection) flow much faster.

Insiders say the BJP is now moving swiftly and aggressively to get as many regional leaders as possible on their side — mainly in states like Maharashtra, Bihar and Bengal where regional parties have emerged as a big force in the past few decades — and the important part of this strategy is to get leaders from the “non-Hindutva” political space on their side. Recent political opinion poll surveys carried out in Maharashtra showed that despite engineering a split in the Shiv Sena and taking its second biggest leader Eknath Shinde on their side, the BJP has not gained much in terms of increasing its voter base. A recent survey by an agency showed the BJP-led Mahayuti alliance getting only 22/24 seats out of 48 in Maharashtra. This gives BJP strategists a reminder about the suggestions given by the think tank led by late BJP strategist Arun Jaitley about 8-9 years ago that the party has to think of getting partners from the non-Hindutva space in order to increase their voter base and achieve a long-lasting majority in Parliament. Traditionally too the strategy adopted by the BJP during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee era was to take non-HIndutva leaders like George Fernades and Ram Vilas Paswan with them. Now as the BJP reaches the end of its second term in office at the centre, the feeling is that once again the party may have to reach out to “non-Hindutva” leaders and make them partners to ensure crossing the figure of 300 in the Lok Sabha.

This is exactly the reason the BJP is now seen taking Ajit Pawar, Ashok Chavan along and then going out of the way to hold talks with Kamal Nath in Madhya Pradesh and even going to the extent of arranging a meeting between Prime MInister Narendra Modi and Kamal Nath. In Rajasthan the party is seen holding talks with Congress leader Sachin Pilot, In Maharashtra it has asked partner Eknath Shinde to take former Congressman Milind Deora into his party and give him a Rajya Sabha ticket. All this is a result of the party realising that its Hindutva call has a limited appeal in terms of attracting voters, and taking leaders from the left side of the political divide is now inevitable.

After the grand victory of 2014, in his first meeting with all the elected Members of Lok Sabha of the BJP, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced that the next target for the BJP should be what he called “Shath Pratishat BJP” (100% BJP rule without taking political partners) however after almost 10 years of rule at the centre the BJP has realised that they still need political partners to achieve a complete majority in the Lok Sabha and many of those partners would be inevitably from the “Non-Hindutva” space!

Rohit Chandavarkar is a senior journalist who has worked for 31 years with various leading newspaper brands and television channels in Mumbai and Pune

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