New Delhi, Sep 28, 2013, DHNS: Out of power at the Centre for close to a decade, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is desperately seeking partners. From a high of 13 major regional allies in 1998, the main opposition party in Parliament has been nearly friendless now, save for two parties, as it approaches the 2014 elections, hoping to reverse the trends of 2004 and 2009 Lok Sabha polls.
While one aspect of the outcome of the next year’s polls is nearly certain – that no single party will gain power on its own and that it will result in a coalition government assuming charge – BJP will be making an all-out effort to win friends and expand its geographical reach through the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) which it heads.
Right now, the pretender to power is in a sorry state. While 272 seats are required to capture power after the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP has a long road to tread – it secured a mere 117 seats last time which means covering the distance is a Herculean task.
That’s where the issue of expanding the NDA becomes crucial. More so, since the two members it has now – Shiv Sena and Shiromani Akali Dal – have 11 and 4 MPs respectively, in LS and are unlikely to make any big addition to the NDA number. Along with two other minor allies, the NDA gasped to reach 133 seats (out of 545) in 2009.
India has been having coalition governments since 1989 and in the silver jubilee of coalition politics, the era of fractured mandates is all set to continue. So is BJP’s search for friends. The best time it had was in 1999 when the NDA, led by A B Vajpayee, could attract 13 major regional allies, one more than in 1998.
The NDA’s decline started with the 2002 communal carnage in Gujarat as allies began deserting it one by one. As a result, it fought the 2004 polls with seven allies and the 2009 elections with eight. And with a mere two allies now, the picture does not look too rozy for it.
However, it is noteworthy that except Samajwadi Party of Mulayam Singh Yadav and the Nationalist Congress Party of Sharad Pawar, all others in the phalanx of regional parties had shared bed with BJP at some point in time in the last two decades.
As the BJP scouts for new alliances, there are some on the horizon whom it may rope in and these parties include the Telugu Desam Party of N Chandrababu Naidu, the Karnataka Janata Party of B S Yeddyurappa, Indian National Lok Dal of Om Prakash Chautala, Jharkhand Vikas Morcha of Babulal Marandi, Asom Gana Parishad and Tamil Nadu parties - MDMK of Vaiko and DMDK of ‘captain’ Vijayakanth. It is also said to be wooing Tamil superstar Rajanikanth who is said to have a soft corner for BJP.
The TDP supremo Naidu, who had been silent on his selection of allies, has not yet gone on record on a tie-up with the saffron outfit but is outspoken in his statements against the Congress. Electorally too, Naidu is said to be in a situation of being forced to join hands with BJP as the Muslim community votes is in for a three-way split among Congress, Jaganmohan Reddy’s YSR Congress and TDP in Andhra Pradesh. An important indicator of which way Naidu will go was available in New Delhi recently as he called on BJP president Rajnath Singh.
As regards Yeddyurappa, the BJP may not find much of a problem. The former Karnataka chief minister has already declared his support to the BJP and it will be a surprise if he keeps his fledging outfit floating and not merge it with the parent party before 2014. Both are in need of each other, Yeddyurappa for his survival and the BJP, to put up a fairly good show in a state it has recently lost to the Congress.
As for Tamil Nadu, the hopes of BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi of having a truck with AIADMK’s J Jayalalitha have all but been dashed as the TN chief minister, eyeing prime ministership herself, has not opened her cards so far. In the absence of this, it has become all the more incumbent on the BJP to hunt for other parties. Among others, Vaiko is already praising BJP leaders while Vijayakanth – whose party secured over 10 per cent votes in 2009 LS polls which it independently contested, and it won 29 seats in 2011 Assembly elections contesting in alliance with AIADMK -- has not indicted his preference yet.
BJP’s Suresh Soni has been deputed to speak to Babulal Marandi of JVM who again has not yet decided his approach for next year’s polls. With rival JMM joining hands with Congress, Marandi, a former BJP chief minister, may be forced to go with his former party. In Assam, the AGP may not have much option left but to go with BJP – both parties have been in decline in the last few elections.
Outside these parties, it is difficult to see the BJP gaining any other partner. The main stumbling block could yet be Modi and his much-talked of polarising persona which will keep away other key regional parties such as the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Trinamool Congress and the Biju Janata Dal, all of which were NDA partners earlier.