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Alliance holds the key

Alliance holds the key

BJP president Amit Shah's Bihar trip on July 12 ended with a positive note as JD(U) Chief and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Shah reaffirmed that the alliance between the two parties would continue. The Presidents of the two political parties also reiterated that they would contest the upcoming Lok Sabha elections next year as alliance partners. On the day when Shah was meeting Kumar in Patna to thrash out the seat-sharing agreement, the other two important leaders of NDA partners, Ram Vilas Paswan of LJP and Upendra Kushwaha of RLSP were out of the country on official visits. Their absence made things easier for the Shah-Kumar meeting where they could concentrate on their expectations from one another. As BJP is likely to face a more determined opposition in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, the party has the onerous responsibility to keep the NDA partners steady in the alliance and take on the opposition as a united force. In the past weeks prior to the Shah-Kumar meeting, Kumar had shown discomfort in being in the NDA and a telephone call made by Kumar to Lalu Yadav purportedly to enquire about his health was seen as a move to clear misunderstandings between the two major stakeholders in the state politics. Kumar's restlessness emanates from the fact that the presence of LJP and RLSP in the NDA fold coupled with BJP being another major force in the state politics would not allow him the bargaining power to seek a respectable number of seats to contest in the upcoming 2019 Lok Sabha election. Whether Shah has assured Kumar on this is yet not clear but it seems the two leaders have reached an understanding that makes them remain united and fight the elections together. In the last Lok Sabha elections, JD(U) had won only two seats but its candidates secured more than a lakh votes in 14 constituencies and over two lakh votes in four constituencies. The poor performance of the party was attributed to its decision to fight the elections alone. If it had an alliance partner like BJP or RJD, it would have made a serious impact on the results of 18 seats. The party's vote share stood at 16 per cent. Though JD(U) alone does not pose a serious challenge to the prospects of BJP and NDA in the state, its coming together with RJD, however, would make a drastic impact on the final tally. It is this factor that makes Shah more accommodative of JD(U). After the Shah-Kumar meeting, one can hope that JD(U) will get a better deal from NDA as far the number of seats it is allowed to contest.

The top BJP leader may be lenient to JD(U) also because of the changing ground situation in Uttar Pradesh (UP). BJP along with its alliance partners won 31 of the 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar and 73 out of 80 seats in UP. In the recent by-elections, BJP candidates failed to win any seat against the common candidates fielded by Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the two erstwhile arch rivals. It's this kind of political realignment that can undo BJP's plans in these two states with a high political stake. In UP, the understanding between Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati looks irreversible as they hold sway on OBC and Dalit votes and that's a formidable combination that BJP has not able to overcome, so far. A similar alliance between Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav in 2015 Bihar Assembly elections relegated BJP to the third position with only 53 sets while RJD won 81 and JD(U) seats. Clearly, in these two politically sensitive states, the key to power is in the alliance with smaller parties. BJP itself benefitted a lot by forging such alliances in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections both in UP and Bihar. LJP with its leader Ram Vilas Paswan has its influence in certain constituencies where Dalit voters are in majority. Similarly, RLSP has a sway in certain constituencies. Upsetting this alliance dynamics can turn out to be disastrous for BJP and NDA. In the Kairana by-election early this year, the SP-BSP bonhomie took a major leap by including Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) in the alliance. The RLD candidate Tabassum Hasan had the support of SP, BSP and Congress and she defeated BJP candidate Mriganka Singh, who is the daughter of Hukum Singh, who was the BJP MP from the same seat till his death in February this year. RLD is a major political force in western UP and enjoys the support of Jat and Muslim communities.

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