Even as the Opposition momentum is waning with the seeming defiance of the CBI by Kolkata police commissioner Rajeev Kumar ending in a whimper with he being pushed off the coveted ‘gaddi,’ and the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India (CAG) report virtually bursting Rahul Gandhi’s balloon on the Rafale deal, the BJP seems to be getting its act together for the general elections.
After much bickering and Shiv Sena dramatics, the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance has survived with all its pitfalls and acrimony, with the BJP going out of its way to appease its rebellious ally, losing some of its credibility in the process. Had the NCP responded to BJP overtures, the latter would have had no qualms in dumping Shiv Sena but the NCP saw its future with the Opposition in the hope that party supremo Sharad Pawar may be able to extract a better deal from the Congress than from the BJP.
Pawar ostensibly even dreamt of leading a ragtag coalition if the BJP was displaced, hoping that many regional players would opt for him than for Rahul or Mamata Banerjee if the BJP is defeated. The Shiv Sena on its part flirted with the Congress unabashedly but found little solace in a Congress connection. Uddhav Thackeray tried every stratagem to win over the Congress including showering praise on Rahul Gandhi but the Congress on its part was acutely aware that associating with Shiv Sena would shoo away the Muslim vote which has been well disposed towards it.
Had the BJP gone solo in Maharashtra, both the BJP and the Shiv Sena would have suffered erosion of votes but the latter would have been a bigger loser so the Shiv Sena gave in to BJP wooing. Yet, Shiv Sena would demand its pound of flesh if the NDA returns to power and continue to pinprick the BJP as it has been doing. Considering that the State Assembly polls are only months away, the way the Shiv Sena is treated by the BJP in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections and in its aftermath would have a bearing on the longevity of the alliance.
The Maharashtra alliance would be some relief to the NDA but it is becoming increasingly clear that the BJP would require more than just a good performance there to romp home a winner in the general elections while making up for the loss of seats it is bound to encounter in the crucial state of Uttar Pradesh where it had bagged 71 of the 80 seats in the 2014 elections with two won by its ally Apna Dal.
With the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party juggernaut rolling on in UP, the BJP is looking at diminished numbers in that state. That heightens the need for new allies and retention of old ones. In Tamil Nadu which sends a substantial 39 members to the Lok Sabha, the BJP has finally clinched an alliance with the AIADMK. While this is no major gain considering that the AIADMK is a weakling due to poor performance of the Palaniswamy government, it is nevertheless a gain. That the PMK has decided to join this alliance is a shot in the arm for the BJP.
One tie-up on which there is little talk but could prove crucial for the BJP is one with YSR Congress chief Jagan Mohan Reddy. Jagan has kept aloof from the Opposition alliance but his stock in Andhra is high with increasing disillusionment with Telugu Desam supremo Chandrababu Naidu. It is well on the cards that the BJP would clinch a deal with the YSR Congress at the last minute in which Jagan Mohan would extract ministerial berths at the Centre for his outfit if the NDA returns to power.
Enigmatically, Reddy has been keeping mum on tie-ups but that he is inclined towards the BJP is a strong hunch.Without a deal with Jagan Mohan, the BJP would be nowhere in Andhra. With a deal, it could pick up a handful of seats riding on the shoulders of the YSR Congress. The RSS cadres, if properly mobilised, could prove useful to the BJP as well as YSR Congress in the event of a tie-up.
The plethora of corruption cases against Jagan Mohan on corruption and disproportionate assets could be tough to explain for the BJP but the electoral gains could more than offset the liability. The BJP would have the added satisfaction of taking revenge with Chandrababu Naidu if the Telugu Desam is mauled in the polls. If there is another state in which the BJP can tie up with a regional party it is the Telangana Rashtriya Samithi in Telangana which could strike a good bargain with it.
If there is an area of fresh opportunity for the BJP it is in West Bengal where, in a short time, it has built itself up as the second largest party after the Trinamool Congress, leaving the Left and the Congress in a shambles. How it capitalises on this in the upcoming polls is a matter of speculation. In Orissa too, the BJP has burgeoning opportunities with Naveen Patnaik’s star on the wane. While the Congress is unable to capitalise, the BJP has penetrated deep. All said and done, the BJP is fast regaining lost ground but it still has some way to go.
Kamlendra Kanwar is a political commentator and columnist. He has authored four books.