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  Opinion   Columnists  04 Jul 2023  Sunil Gatade | Maha Erupts as BJP in Search of Allies, Old & New, Ahead of 2024

Sunil Gatade | Maha Erupts as BJP in Search of Allies, Old & New, Ahead of 2024

The writer is a senior journalist based in New Delhi.
Published : Jul 5, 2023, 12:00 am IST
Updated : Jul 5, 2023, 12:00 am IST

The PM suddenly singing paeans for the NDA looks a bit strange

Ajit Pawar was getting restive after Sharad Pawar virtually anointed his daughter Supriya Sule as his successor. (Image: PTI)
 Ajit Pawar was getting restive after Sharad Pawar virtually anointed his daughter Supriya Sule as his successor. (Image: PTI)

Maharashtra’s bizarre political developments this week in which an NCP faction headed by Ajit Pawar joined the government, giving Sharad Pawar a jolt, can be seen as an unsure BJP seeking new allies at any cost.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah were aware the Eknath Shinde-Devendra Fadnavis government was stable and there were adequate numbers, but they still moved to split the NCP. They weren’t taking any chances with Maharashtra, with 48 Lok Sabha seats, next only to Uttar Pradesh’s 80, with the polls just nine months away.

Ajit Pawar was getting restive after Sharad Pawar virtually anointed his daughter Supriya Sule as his successor. The BJP had for long kept an eye on a disgruntled Ajit to ensure total dominance over Maharashtra. This means that minus the Congress, all forces in Maharashtra are welcome to the BJP camp as satellites.

This is a change of tack by the world’s largest party. Till six months ago, the PM’s taunt to the Opposition was: “Ek Modi sab par bhari”. Whether speaking in Parliament or addressing an election meeting, Mr Modi’s barbs were that his adversaries were so insignificant that they could be blown away with a single roar of the lion. Or something like that.

Now, BJP strategists are bending over backwards to accommodate as many allies as possible in the NDA.  Right, left and centre. Strange.

The BJP-led NDA now looks like an overcrowded public bus, with the conductor allowing more people to board despite the virtual stampede inside. It’s like the conductor wants to please the owner by gathering as much of a crowd as possible.

From Kashmir to Kanyakumari, new partners are being discovered and prepared for inclusion in the NDA or in informal poll tie-ups. Everybody who is against the Congress or has a grudge against it is being taken care of. Suddenly, more is beautiful. The more the merrier.

Gone are the days when a resurgent BJP was ready to take on the rest on its own, and depicted the non-BJP parties as forces of no consequence. The campaign initiated by none other than the PM himself of a “Congress-mukt Bharat” was an audacious bid to target the Opposition. Is such a campaign cohesive with the lofty talk of India as the “mother of democracy”?

The BJP’s change of tack shows how much the setback in Karnataka has damaged Brand Modi and his party’s confidence. The idea of a “lean and trim” BJP-led NDA has been abandoned.

There have also been some amusing incidents. In Maharashtra, the BJP is signalling that it is open to doing business with Uddhav Thackeray if the Sena (UBT) leader initiates negotiations with the top party leaders on his own.

This is happening when chief minister Eknath Shinde, who led the revolt against Mr Thackeray and brought down the MVA government a year back, is claiming he is a far bigger leader than Devendra Fadnavis, whom the BJP high command forced to become deputy CM to cut him to size. Mr Shinde’s controversial action was like the tail wagging the dog.

Just after Karnataka polls, the BJP opened doors for an alliance in the state with the JD(S) after party patriarch and former PM H.D. Deve Gowda met Mr Modi. The idea is to checkmate the Congress with “BJP plus JD(S)” votes despite the fact that Mr Deve Gowda’s party is fast losing ground.

In Bihar, chief minister Nitish Kumar, the friend turned foe of the BJP, is a prime target as he has taken the lead in bringing the Opposition parties together, backed by its key ally Lalu Prasad Yadav’s RJD. The BJP is thus joining hands with Chirag Paswan on one side and former CM Jitan Ram Manjhi on the other. It has taken along former Union minister Upendra Kushwaha, a friend-turned-foe of Nitish Kumar, and brought in a new state party chief as it struggles to have a face in Bihar. Samrat Chaudhary is a leader from a prominent community among the backwards and is known as an articulate leader.

In Andhra Pradesh, new allies are in the process of being ushered in. TDP’s N. Chandrababu Naidu, who left the NDA ahead of the last Lok Sabha polls, is the prominent one. The party also has an alliance with Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena.

In Tamil Nadu, the BJP hopes to keep both AIADMK factions with it.

However, there is no amity or unanimity between the BJP and its allies in some states over contesting polls. In Haryana, the Jannanayak Janata Party led by deputy CM Dushyant Chautala has announced that his party would contest all 10 seats in the Lok Sabha polls in the state even though the BJP, which heads the government, plans to do the same.

In Punjab, the Shiromani Akali Dal warned that the push for a Uniform Civil Code could affect his party’s chances of a revival of its alliance with the BJP for 2024.

The BJP’s spin doctors are saying whatever happened in Maharashtra is the “crash landing” of the Opposition’s plans to come together to take on the ruling party. But this is too naive a claim. Whatever has happened is certainly a setback, but it all depends on how things pan out in the next six months.

The PM suddenly singing paeans for the NDA looks a bit strange. So far, the allies appeared to be like the “extras” of Bollywood who needed to be around like showpieces so that the “hero” was depicted in a brighter light and runs the show single-handedly. We suddenly appear to be living in interesting times as the ruling party is now proclaiming “Yeh Dil maange more”.

The writer is a journalist based in New Delhi.

Tags: union home minister amit shah, prime minister narenda modi, ncp chief sharad pawar, ajit pawar