Will BJP Award Bharat Ratna To Bal Thackeray And Woo Uddhav Back To NDA?

Will BJP Award Bharat Ratna To Bal Thackeray And Woo Uddhav Back To NDA?

The consecutive announcements of the prestigious award for political leaders within days, just weeks before the crucial Lok Sabha elections, have framed the narrative for PM Modi and the BJP's outreach efforts.

Tejas JoshiUpdated: Friday, February 09, 2024, 06:18 PM IST
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday announced that his government will confer Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award in India, to former Prime Ministers PV Narasimha Rao, Chaudhary Charan Singh, and agricultural scientist MS Swaminathan. The announcement came days after the Prime Minister declared the same honour for former Bihar CM Karpoori Thakoor and BJP stalwart Lal Krishna Advani.

The consecutive announcements of the prestigious award for political leaders within days, just weeks before the crucial Lok Sabha elections, have framed the narrative for PM Modi and the BJP's outreach efforts. This move aims not only to appeal to supporters of the awardees but also to facilitate political alliances, thereby bolstering the party's prospects in the forthcoming elections.

Ratna for Karpoori Thakur brings Nitish back

With the announcement of the Bharat Ratna for Karpoori Tahkur, one of the towering socialist leaders and mentor of Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, the BJP facilitated the smooth re-entry of the JD(U) back into the NDA fold. By inducting Nitish Kumar, who was once considered for the convenorship of the opposition's INDIA bloc, the BJP dealt a blow to the efforts and credibility of the opposition front. Although it is premature to assess whether Nitish's return to the NDA will yield positive outcomes for Modi, the fact that the entire charade was exploited to discredit opposition unity just weeks before the election is a significant win for the saffron party.

LK Advani, who led the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, was awarded the Bharat Ratna shortly after the inauguration of the Ram temple in UP's Ayodhya. The move could be seen in the context of the BJP's efforts to energize and solidify its core Hindu voter base, which would have supported them regardless. However, the decision to honor Advani with the Ratna indicates that the BJP is leaving no stone unturned to ensure victory in 2024.

Charan Singh gets Bharat Ratna, NDA gets RLD

Amidst talks of the RLD, another INDIA bloc party, potentially breaking away from the opposition to join the BJP-led NDA, came the announcement of the Bharat Ratna for Chaudhary Charan Singh. The late former Prime Minister is the grandfather of RLD chief Jayant Chaudhary. With the RLD limited to a few seats in Western Uttar Pradesh, it may not provide a significant boost to the NDA, whose prospects already appear favourable in the northern state. However, for optics and crucial Jat votes, the move is a strategic one for the BJP. Jayant Chaudhary seems almost persuaded, stating on Friday, "How can I say no now?" after Charan Singh was bestowed with the highest civilian honor.

As the BJP, under PM Modi's leadership, endeavors to fortify its alliances across the country, it is strategically considering Maharashtra, a Western state where opposition parties are projected to potentially outperform the BJP-led NDA according to surveys. Despite the fragmentation within Uddhav Thackeray's Shiv Sena and Sharad Pawar's NCP, with factions of each party supporting the BJP, the saffron party still lags behind the INDIA bloc.

Recent rumblings in political circles suggest BJP's efforts to entice Uddhav Thackeray once more into the alliance fold, aiming to enhance the coalition's prospects in this crucial state. Given the BJP's utilisation of the Bharat Ratna as a means to garner support, it wouldn't be surprising if an announcement is made regarding the award for Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray, with the intention of persuading Uddhav's Sena to rejoin the alliance.

Raj demands Ratna for Bal Thackeray

Raj Thackeray, Bal Thackeray's nephew and chief of MNS, voiced this demand on Friday. Following the announcement of Bharat Ratna for Rao, Chaudhary, and Swaminathan, Raj Thackeray took to social media platform X and stated: "Now that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government at the Center has shown political generosity by honouring P. V. Narasimha Rao, Chaudhary Charan Singh, and Pranab Mukherjee a few years ago, they must show the same generosity and declare Balasaheb Thackeray ‘Bharat Ratna’ as well."

"A prominent cartoonist of this country and a unique leader who kindled the pride of all Hindus across the country deserves this honour. It will be a moment of jubilation for me, and others like me who have inherited Balasaheb’s thoughts," Raj Thackeray added.

Bharat Ratna for Bal Thackeray: A deal maker?

A Bharat Ratna for his father would undoubtedly bring joy to Uddhav Thackeray and provide him with a compelling reason to realign politically back to the NDA, similar to Nitish Kumar and Jayant Chaudhary. Additionally, if the BJP were to accept the demand made by the MNS chief for a Bharat Ratna to his uncle, it would effectively coerce the MNS into expressing support for the BJP.

While awarding the Ratna to Bal Thackeray may have seemed like an extreme measure a few years ago, the current rightward shift in the country's politics, coupled with leaders like LK Advani receiving the highest honor, suggests that such a decision would not be as controversial now. Instead, it could potentially strengthen the BJP's position by reuniting them with an old ally at full strength.

But will BJP do it?

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