The latest by-election debacle in made one thing amply clear — to repeat the 2014 mandate in the upcoming 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party needs allies. The BJP managed to win just one of the four Lok Sabha seats and one of the 10 Assembly seats where bypolls were held. While the BJP alliance retained two LS seats — one in Maharashtra and another in Nagaland — it lost two others: Uttar Pradesh's Kairana and Maharashtra's Bhandara-Gondiya.
The Uttar Pradesh results came as the biggest upset for the saffron party as the joint Opposition candidate Tabassum Hasan — a Rashtriya Lok Dal candidate contesting on Samajwadi Party ticket — won Kairana. Apart from Uttar Pradesh, bypolls in Maharashtra — Palghar and Bhandara-Gondiya — and Bihar's Jokihat were those being eagerly watched. The results of the two Lok Sabha seats (Palghar and Bhandara-Gondiya) in Maharashtra are important for all four major political parties — BJP, Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP — as the outcome is expected have a bearing on their future course. While BJP retained Palghar, NCP wrested power in Bhandara-Gondiya. In Bihar, Nitish Kumar's JD(U), another BJP ally, faced massive defeat in the hands of Lalu Prasad Yadav's RJD.
Following the election disaster, BJP was catapulted its top leaders in damage-control mode, especially when former allies and a few who still are part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), seem to lose faith in the invincibility of the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo in bagging elections. The election setbacks emboldened the not-so-happy partners of the NDA who acknowledged that the 2014 sheen of the saffron party is clearly waning.
Soon after the by-election results were announced on 31 May, Shiv Sena attacked the Election Commission and its ally over complaints of malfunctioning of EVMs and VVPAT machines in bypolls. Sena alleged that the ruling party, which, it said, has an "autocratic mindset", has corrupted the EVMs to serve its own purpose.
A miffed Shiv Sena has repeatedly hit out at the BJP for what it calls a high-handed attitude of the NDA leader towards its smaller allies. Opposition's desperation to overthrow BJP from the Centre has reached such a level that Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy, after losing the Rajarajeshwari Nagar seat to Congress, said that it doesn't matter whether JD(S) loses, "we wanted to ensure BJP's loss in the constituency."
With a situation as this one in their hand, BJP president Amit Shah has a jam-packed week ahead — he is travelling to Mumbai on Wednesday to meet Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray at 6 pm at the latter's residence Matoshree.
Following the embarrassing loss in the Jokihat bypoll, the JD(U) and the BJP have already started pitching for more than 40 seats as part of the seat-sharing formula in Bihar. The JD(U) claimed to be "the big brother in Bihar" and a day later insisted it had "more MLAs than the BJP". JD(U), LJP and Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP) demanded a decision on which party will contest how many seats in of 2019 Lok Sabha elections, citing lack of coordination in the BJP-led NDA. RLSP chief and Union Minister of State for HRD Upendra Kushwaha said all allies of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) should sit together and finalise the strategy for the polls, including seat sharing, ahead of the 2019 general elections. Expressing concern over repeated defeat of the BJP in bypolls, Kushwaha said there was something wrong. "Taking note of it, NDA should call a meeting to discuss with its allies."
The NDA in Bihar is scheduled to hold a meeting, the first since Nitish Kumar rejoined the coalition, on Thursday. As CNN-News18 report argued that the question at the core of the debate is whether the poor showing of JD(U) in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections — when it was out of NDA — or whether it’s much-improved showing in the 2015 assembly elections would be a yardstick to decide the number of seats to be given to the JD(U) in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
Shah met with Food and Civil Supplies Minister Ram Vilas Paswan in New Delhi. BJP hopes that the "grand meeting" of the NDA in Patna will spread a feeling of unity among the allies. Post the by-election debacle, ally restiveness is predominant in crucial states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Maharashtra, which account for 168 Lok Sabha seats, of which the BJP and its partners won 145 in 2014. The Telegraph reported that central leaders of the saffron party were fearful that more allies might turn difficult "and some may even quit", impairing the pitch ahead of the general election, due next summer.
Meanwhile, reports have claimed that Shah's "outreach programme", which includes seeking support in the forthcoming elections, will see the party president reach out to its Punjab ally Shiromani Akali Dal's Sukhbir Singh Badal on Thursday.
Updated Date: Jun 05, 2018 15:51 PM