The last mile in a marathon is usually the longest. It’s won by the mind. Though widely perceived to emerge as the single largest party within the few hours of counting on May 16, the BJP is running steady to keep pace with the developments that may follow. At 6 pm on Saturday evening, the two-month long high octane election campaign marked by many highs and lows in the country’s electoral history fell silent. The party would have to rejuvenate its hunt for allies if it falls short of magic figure of 272.
Depending on the shortage of seats, instead of begging formidable satraps like Mamata Banerjee, Mayawati or Jayalilitha for support, the saffron party would rather woo smaller parties first. It would prefer former ‘amenable’ allies like the Chautalas-led INLD, if it manages to win 2-3 seats in Haryana, Biju Janta Dal or even Chandrasekhar Rao-led Telangana Rashtra Samithi.
While the party weighs the post-poll scenarios and possible alliances, there are some interesting aspects of its strategy. BJP insiders claim that the party or the Narendra Modi-led election machinery is not perturbed with the negative vibes from Mamata-Maya-KCR, or for that matter Jayalalithaa completely turning their face away from a post-poll support. “Strong bargain allies do not fit well with Modi’s strong image of a functioning PM,” a party leader said on condition of anonymity.
The 10 years of Manmohan Singh coalition government have sufficiently warned the saffron party on whom to ally with. Officially the BJP leaders stick to their public stance. “We would not need more allies as we are getting full majority on our own,” senior BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu said.
“Engaging with Mayawati, Mamata Banerjee and Jayalalithaa could pose a problem of its own. If these were to enter into alliance with the BJP, they would extract concessions and then go to town saying they had forced the government to do so. This would go against the strong leader image of Narendra Modi,” a party leader said. This also explains the renewed attack on Mamata, who is expected to corner most seats in West Bengal.
“We realised that we were within the striking distance at many seats in the state. So Modi stepped up rhetoric promising to flush out Bangladeshis. For local residents, this would have found a resonance,” the leader said.
Moreover given 25 per cent Muslims in the state, Mamata would not openly align with us as she has her eyes set next assembly elections in 2016. Given the exigencies of political survival, as she would need help from the centre for her state, she may help us indirectly, he added.
The BJP had supported Mayawati to become UP Chief Minister. But she had pulled the rug from under the Kalyan Singh government in 1997. “Mayawati may also be out of question. We are also looking at the 2017 assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh. Any alliance with her would dent our chances given the caste equations and poor experience of alliance with her in the state,” the leader added.
With their eyes firmly set on the Muslim vote bank in their respective states, Mayawati and Mamata have already rejected any move to align with the NDA. The BJP has been cautious in attacking AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa. In her case, the BJP sees a potential post ally. In a recent TV interview, Modi who had attacked Mayawati and Mamata said, “Politics was not conducted on the basis of what was said during campaigning.” In its official press meet, the BJP had refrained from attacking AIADMK chief, even though the BJP along with other five parties is contesting all the seats in Tamil Nadu.
The saffron party is banking on allies like BJD and TRS. As per BJP’s calculations, it’s going to be a hung assembly in the Telangana. Jittery Chandrashekhar Rao announced on Friday that he would support the Congress government at the Centre. But for him to become first chief minister in Telagana, he would need support. It’s where his future politics will be dictated.
In another significant post poll scenario, even if Modi goes on to form the government, BJP chief Rajnath Singh has hinted that he would like to continue in current position than join the government. “This stems from the fact that every time BJP government was formed, the organisation was neglected. It harmed the party. Moreover, if he stays in the party he would exercise moral authority to tell the leaders to stay back in the organisation instead of gunning for position in the new government,” sources said.
Singh’s posturing of staying in the party is also seen by political watchers as his move to stake claim to PM’s post in case Modi is not able to hunt allies if NDA falls short of majority.
In yet another scenario, if the party falls short of majority by significant numbers, rather than desperately look for allies, a section within the party feels that it should sit in Opposition. “Let others form the government. With so many PM aspirants, it will fall in six months,” a leader said. He added that they could pitch for a strong government. In that scenario, will Modi be willing to sit on the Opposition benches in Lok Sabha to have another shot at PM’s post? Would he return to his strong hold - Gujarat? These are the questions that prevail.