Drumming up support from within and outside the party in the run-up to a major election is scientific and strategic in nature. This is what Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah has begun in right earnest as part of the party’s maha-sampark abhiyan. In the opposition space, the coming together of assorted political splinter groups without any ideological cohesiveness and common minimum programme (CMP) has set the perfect backdrop for the BJP chief to widen his arc of reaching out. Under the circumstances, it is strategic to offer the hand of friendship to the Shiv Sena that has been a troublesome ally for the BJP in Maharashtra and at the centre. It is no more like the good old days of Balasaheb Thackeray and Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Breaking bread with Uddhav Thackeray and his son Aditya should go some way towards mending fences between the allies who fought each other in the recent by-elections. The Shiv Sena is certain to exact its pound of flesh in Mumbai city, state government and the centre with plum representation for its leaders. The meeting between the BJP and Shiv Sena chiefs is significant for another reason. Shah’s overtures are politically significant for Thackeray in view of the dismal show of his party in elections where it has gone it alone. The two together are sure to make a powerful combine in Maharashtra. Shah’s second stop was Chandigarh where he reached out to the Badals of the Shiromani Akali Dal who have been BJP allies for 30-odd years in the Punjab. In this northern frontier, the BJP-Akali equation will have to be reworked since the Congress party is a formidable force with chief minister Amarinder Singh in the driver’s seat. For now, it appears that the BJP-Akali Dal combine will first aim to put up a respectable show in the state after they were trounced in the last assembly polls. The showing in Punjab will have a ripple effect in Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Chandigarh. Bihar is the third state where realignment needs to be worked out after the BJP lost face in the state assembly elections in 2015. While the Janata Dal (United) or JD(U) headed by Nitish Kumar, the Lok Janashakti Party (LJP) and Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) headed by Upendra Kushwaha will try and assert themselves, the BJP should take on the role of a unifying force in the state to bring all the NDA allies on a single stage. Here again, Nitish Kumar’s uneasy relationship with the RLSP leadership is likely to provide a big opportunity for the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) headed by Tejashwi Yadav. Coalition building efforts in the NDA needs to be attempted to take on the ‘mahagathbandhan’ that was impaired once JD(U) parted ways to join hands with the BJP. In the southern states, the BJP may have to seek new allies in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth (Tamil Nadu), Pavan Kalyan (Andhra Pradesh) have forayed into politics and could be potential partners. BJP’s possible alliance with Pavan Kalyan can more than make up for the loss of an ally in the Telugu Desam Party headed by N Chandrababu Naidu. In Kerala, all forces aligned against the Left parties and conservative Church could be sounded out. Across states, BJP will have to mend its relations with 18-parties that are part of the new-look NDA especially with a string of state-level parties from the Northeast joining its fold. As the elder in the family rather than Big Brother, BJP needs to be magnanimous with its allies to take on the opposition that has been energised following the recent successes in by-polls and the Karnataka elections.
BJP needs to be magnanimous with its allies to take on the opposition