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BJP NeedsTo Change Style Sheet To Outpace Opposition in 2019

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By Sidharth Mishra

Within hours of HD Kumaraswamy taking over as Chief Minister of Karnataka, the social media noticed quiet posting of a tweet by union home minister Rajnath Singh. The post said, “Congratulations to Shri HD Kumaraswamy and Shri G Parameshwar on taking oath as the Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister of Karnataka. I hope, Karnataka will move forward towards peace, progress and prosperity under the new Govt.”

This post came at the time when the world was going gaga over the presence of almost all the opposition leaders in Bengaluru at the swearing in of the JD(S) leader as the new chief minister and the Congress leader as his deputy. The swearing in ceremony in Bengaluru was happening after much animated political activity which had followed the fractured mandate. The post surprised the Modi-Bhakts, the BJP-sympathisers and the BJP-opponents alike.

When more than a month had been spent in a political discourse which lacked in any respectful degree of civility, the tone and tenor of Rajnath Singh’s post indeed could be seen, if nothing else, as an attempt by his political party at course correction. A functionary in the ruling party mentioned that it was customary for the Home Minister to extend such courtesy to a new state government.

However, those not sympathetic towards the leadership of NarendraModi, point out that such courtesies were expected of the Prime Minister also. They specially point towards the speech which the Prime Minister made at the BJP headquarters addressing the party workers on the day Karnataka results came out.

The Prime Minister during the hard hitting speech, as is his wont, had pointed out that the Congress had come to be limited to the 3 Ps – Punjab, Pudducherry and Parivar. To this was Rajnath Singh’s 3 Ps to the Kumaraswamy government, wishing people of Karnataka – peace, progress and prosperity. Does the two different set of Ps in some way reflect an urge to shift towards a new style-sheet?

The Karnataka battle and the events which followed has increasingly shown that the burden of campaign for the BJP has come to completely rest with the Prime Minister and his hand-picked party president Amit Shah. Though the other senior leaders of the party also participate in the campaign but they seldom seem to be eager to soak themselves in the same spirit as Modi and Shah does.

The post-result strategy of the BJP in Karnataka, in the absence of Finance Minister ArunJaitley, who is recuperating from kidney transplant surgical procedure, just could not find the requisite traction to save itself from a major embarrassment. The mess created around hurried swearing-in of BS Yeddyurappa as chief minister, preceded by midnight sitting of the Supreme Court, accompanied by the grisly stories of attempts made to woo MLAs and finally the headcount under apex court supervision, saw the BJP flounder at every step.

Since the situation was of his making, the onus to defend the party actions came to rest with Amit Shah, who in turn told mediapersons that “Had we got the 15-day period to prove our majority, their party MLAs would have gone to their constituencies and they would have changed their mind.” Shah denied that the BJP would try to pull down the alliance government. He, however, could not resist saying that the government would not last long due to internal pressure that would pull it in different directions. “Such a government will not last long in the state. Congress leaders have themselves not accepted their alliance with JDS,” he said.

It’s for certain that the life of Karnataka alliance rests on the outcome of the 2019 general elections. If Modi and Shah are back in the saddle post-2019 polls, there would be nothing stopping the coming back of a BJPgovernment in Karnataka. However, if that does not happen, the fate of governments in Meghalaya, Manipur, Arunachal, Goa and may be even Jammu and Kashmir would also hang in balance.

The BJP presently finds itself on a difficult turf, on two counts. One Karnataka and before that Gujarat and by polls in Gorakhpur and Phulpur in Uttar Pradesh has given the opposition parties the hope of slowing down the Modi juggernaut. Two the perceivable allies from the regional parties too for now don’t seem to be very keen to join ranks with the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

More than a Chandrababu Naidu marking attendance at the swearing in ceremony or the bonhomie shown by Sonia Gandhi and Mayawati, it’s the presence of SharadPawar, which should send the alarm bell ringing. Pawar had bailed the BJP government out in Maharashtra when its ally Shiv Sena had played truant. Pawar was rewarded with a Padma Vibhushan for public service thereafter.

A veteran political player, Pawar certainly must be seeing a chance for opposition alliance in 2019, if they cobble together a battle ready outfit. At this stage at least he would not want to be seen as a spoiler.Nor does Pawar have the compulsions similar to a Naveen Patnaik or a K ChandrashekharRao to be not seen supping with the Congress.

It’s for sure that in 2019, if there is an opposition alliance on one side, the BJP too would have to cede some space to allies on its side. As it is, there are not very many left within the NDA. The Shiv Sena, the Akali Dal, Janata Dal (United) and the AsomGanaParishad are to only formidable ones still with the BJP. In such circumstances, the party would need to change its style-sheet, with persuasion and not aggression as the keyword.


(The writer is President, Centre for Reforms, Development & Justice, New Delhi)

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