Jayalalithaa, Patnaik, Jagan: BJP's plan B against Congress
The idea is to disallow Congress the opportunity to rope in allies. A larger NDA will also help the BJP push legislation in the Rajya Sabha.
The euphoria over the projections of a series of exit polls notwithstanding. the Bharatiya Janata Party-led NDA is not taking any chances ahead of counting day on May 16. The aim is to completely isolate the Congress party and throw a spanner in the works for any anti-BJP combination that may be in the making.
The first port of call will be Odisha, where former ally Naveen Patnaik has chosen to keep his cards very close to his chest. Despite speculation that he would be a key member of a possible third front or federal front -- some leaders even suggested that the non-controversial and acceptable-to-all Patnaik would be a PM-candidate from such a front -- the Biju Janata Dal had chosen to skip a February meeting in Delhi where various regional and Left parties indulged in some public posturing.
Now, The Economic Times reports that the BJP has initiated talks with Patnaik and a post-poll understanding could be worked out.
The report quoted a senior BJP leader as saying: "Naveen Patnaik has not been negative to our feelers. He has only sent word that someone senior like Arun Jaitley should be deputed to represent BJP in the talks."
Sweetening the deal could be two Cabinet berths, the report added.
Earlier, the BJD's chief whip Pravat Tripathi had said keeping in view the "opinion of the whole country and the state's interest", providing conditional support to the NDA could be an option for the party.
The exit polls predict 12 to 16 seats for the BJD.
The other regional ally, expectedly, would be Jayalalithaa's AIADMK, pegged to perform exceedingly well in Tamil Nadu. Though the TN chief minister questioned Gujarat's model of development and claimed the Tamil Nadu model was actually better, the AIADMK is actually amenable to supporting the NDA, reports said.
Meanwhile, the BJP has also reached out to the former NCP leader PA Sangma for some additional numbers from the north-east.
The hectic parleys are being conducted against a backdrop of the exit polls predicting anywhere between 200 and 297 with a few dozen seats too close to call.
A report in the Business Standard said even parties such as the Telangana Rashtra Samithi and the YSR Congress, both potential allies who would be keen to be in the good books of the new dispensation at the Centre, could be considered part of a "greater NDA", either as allies or as providing outside support.
Reportedly, the RSS is playing a significant role in advising on such a larger combination of likely allies.
According to the report, the RSS's advice is that it would be useful "to deny the Congress likely allies and deepen the party's isolation". This would also be useful in shepherding legislation through the upper House, where the NDA will still have to build up its numbers over the next several months.
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