After a hiatus of four years politics has returned to its usual course with agitations and tough bargains for power sharing becoming the norm again. The looming regional elections of Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Mizoram coupled with general elections scheduled for 2019 has brought a sense of urgency in the political establishment to reach out to each other.
The mandate of 2014 enabled Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ignore smaller parties and regional groupings. With the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) winning 282 of the 544 Lok Sabha seats, Modi had emerged as the first Prime Minister in three decades to have simple majority in the Lower House of Parliament. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) that BJP had forged with regional parties to challenge the Congress party had two-third majority in the Lok Sabha.
The Congress party was reduced to 44 seats in the Lok Sabha and its bad run continued till last year as Modi made major gains in regional Assembly elections. It enabled Modi to sideline all the leaders, both within the party and outside.
A year after seven agitating farmers were killed in a police firing in Mandsaur in Madhya Pradesh they are back on the streets. Joining them this time are Congress leaders, who have organised a rally by party president Rahul Gandhi. Elections to the State Assembly are due at the year-end. Congress is seeking to oust BJP in the State, where it has been in office for past 15 years. The grand old party is reaching out to Bahujan Samaj Party and Gondwana Ganatantra Party to ensure a direct contest between BJP and its rivals.
At the same time, BJP president Amit Shah has rushed to Mumbai to assuage its oldest ally and ideological twin Shiv Sena. The Mumbai-based party had been a senior partner of the BJP for decades till the death of its founder Bal Thackeray. Rift in the Thackeray family enabled the BJP to emerge as the Big Brother in Maharashtra alliance. The meeting with Uddhav Thackeray is to ensure that Sena does not walkout of the alliance next year as it has warned.
The murmurs against roughshod tactics adopted by the BJP with its NDA partners were audible for long. However, the gains BJP made in Assembly elections left allies with no option but suffer in silence. Take it or lump it was BJP’s attitude towards its regional allies.
The first to quit the NDA was Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in March this year, which felt slighted at Andhra Pradesh being denied special category status as assured at the time of bifurcation of the state with the creation of Telangana. YSR Congress of Jagan Reddy and TDP, though bitter rivals in Andhra Pradesh, joined hands to move a no confidence motion against the Modi government. Though the motion could not be taken up due to unruly scenes in the Lok Sabha, it reflected the bitterness that had set in among BJP’s allies.
The tide finally began to turn against the BJP when it suffered defeat in three successive defeats in Uttar Pradesh Lok Sabha by elections. The party had to eat a humble pie in seats vacated by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and his deputy Keshav Prasad Mauraya. To add to its woes, a combined opposition candidate trounced BJP in Kairana, a seat which BJP had won first time in 2014.
The turn of events also brought clarity among non-BJP opposition. Congress and Janata Dal(S), who had a bitter contest in Karnataka, joined hands to prevent BJP government formation in the State though it was the single largest party.
A string of setback in the country’s largest State has emboldened allies in Bihar, Maharashtra and elsewhere to toughen their bargaining position towards BJP.
Coming ten months will see both Shah and Gandhi scion travel thousands of miles to win the battle of 2019.