Millennium Post

Paswan passport for BJP... Not!

The divorce between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), led by Dalit leader and erstwhile union minister Ramvilas Paswan, has been annulled for the time being. BJP, which is desperate in search of allies, finds this annulment convenient to woo other suitors, who over the past decade drifted away from the principal Opposition for varied reasons.

While some looked for opportunity in being consort of the Congress, which surprised all by coming to power in 2004 and retaining it in 2009, some others, while did not align with Congress, also saw no gains in hanging to the apron strings of the saffron party as it went into a decline.

The perceptible resurgence in the fortunes of the BJP, as evident from the results of the assembly polls held late last year and also the forecasts of the opinion polls, these suitors have once again evinced interest in the saffron party.

Having been reduced to the position of near isolation politically, ever since their defeat in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP too wants to win over allies as the thought of forming a single party government in this era and time is too farfetched. Party leader Arun Jaitley articulated the ‘gains’ which the return of a leader like Paswan to NDA could bring.

‘When certain political groups identify themselves with the NDA their area of influence may be confined to a particular State. However, their joining sends a larger political signal. A strong BJP has capacity to attract more friends and allies than a weak BJP. This groundswell of support which is visible in the BJP rallies is the game changer. It sends a message loud and clear of which way the wind is blowing. Today, those who had left the BJP in States like Gujarat and Karnataka have all returned adding to strength of the party. In states like Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra, Bihar and Tamil Nadu we have significant allies. There are several states in which electoral tie-ups before the elections or political tie-ups after the elections are both possible and probable,’ Jaitley wrote in a recent article.

There is no denying the fact that there is a groundswell of support and its attracting allies. But Mr Jaitley in rushing to end its isolation and making allies, the BJP should give a thought to the reasons for the groundswell of support. It emanates directly from the frustration people have had with cases of corruption and mal governance affecting the Manmohan Singh-led United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre.

BJP has strengthened its position by exposing the cases of corruption in the UPA government and also fighting criminalization of politics especially in states like Bihar. Will it be correct for the party, to end its, to use Jaitley’s words, ‘splendid isolation’ by aligning with leaders like Ramvilas Paswan in Bihar and possibly M Karunanidhi-led Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in Tamil Nadu.

Without going into the merits of the break-up which has taken place between BJP and one of three most consistent allies Janata Dal (U), the fact remains that the two managed to remove Lalu Yadav-Rabri Devi regime from power in the state in 2005 and humbled them again in 2009 Lok Sabha polls and 2010 assembly polls as they together pursued the politics of decriminalization and corruption-free governance.
Ramvilas Paswan fought the formation of NDA government in Bihar tooth and nail before his party was shown the door by people. The LJP’s legislative presence in Bihar is effectively nil and Ramvilas Paswan managed his way into Rajya Sabha piggy riding on the legislative strength of its ally Lalu Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD). Will the support of his community – the Dusadhs, even over which he doesn’t enjoy a monopoly, be of enough value to counter the blemishes which an allegiance with him would bring?

Though the BJP and the LJP are still to reveal seat sharing formula and the names of the candidates, if the insiders are to be believed, all the ‘freedom fighters’, as Lalu Yadav calls them, are set to be accommodated. Yadav uses the sobriquet of ‘freedom fighters’ for such leaders from LJP, who have spent several days behind bars from time to time in the numerous criminal cases slapped against them.
Will it help the BJP campaign to have its cadres to work for known criminals like Suraj Bhan Singh and Rama Singh who are expected to get tickets from Nawada and Vaishali respectively? In addition to that they BJP cadres would also be expected to uphold the demands of ‘Paswan dynasty’ as three of its scions – Ramvilas Paswan, his son Chirag Paswan and brother Ram Chandra Paswan would be contesting. Paswan is also faced with a criminal case involving corrupt practices in the recruitment of executives for steel major SAIL, when he was minister for steels.

With such allies, will BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi be confident of targeting its opponents on the grounds of criminalization, corruption and dynasty rule? On the contrary, such myopic moves aimed at immediate political gains have made BJP cede turf to outfits like Aam Admi Party (AAP).
In a recent paper on the rise of AAP, veteran bureaucrat Shakti sinha wrote, ‘The underestimation of the AAP phenomena goes beyond complacency and should be seen as the failure of mainstream parties to understand societal changes of the recent decades. This is actually not surprising since the nature of political parties, particularly the BJP, has itself changed. The result is that increasingly political parties are not in sync with the hopes, aspirations, frustrations and expectations of the citizenry.’

BJP any way was predicted to get about 22-24 out of 40 seats in Bihar. An alliance with Paswan cannot double the number but defending the act would be so burdensome that it could blunt party’s attack on the Congress.

The author is with Centre for Reforms, Development & Justice, and is Consulting Editor, Millennium Post
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