‘We are happy as coalition dharma has been followed,’ said a JDU leader on the RS election.
The Bharatiya Janata Party is ready to shed its image of being a “lone ranger” and the “big brother” to its allies in the National Democratic Alliance ahead of the Lok Sabha elections of 2019. This was reflected in the election of Harivansh Singh, a first-time Member of Parliament belonging to the Janata Dal United (JDU), as the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, top BJP leaders, who were part of the deliberations to elect the candidate for the post, told The Sunday Guardian. They said that BJP has thus sent a “conciliatory” message—of taking the interests of its allies in its scheme of things—to fence-sitters such as the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), to disgruntled “friends” such as the Shiv Sena and estranged allies like the Telugu Desam Party (TDP)
The sources said that the party leadership has realised that they needed allies to sail through the 2019 elections, unlike in 2014 when the “Modi wave” decimated its rivals. Hence, the BJP is looking for ways to do a “course correction” by listening to the demands and concerns of these parties more seriously.
“We will need allies in 2019, so we are working to expand the NDA family by increasing the number of members and also trying to placate those who are, or were with us, but are now angry. As the largest member of the NDA family, we need to do our best to keep every alliance partner happy, without going overboard,” a top BJP functionary said.
By selecting a JDU member as the NDA nominee, the BJP also cemented its ties with Nitish Kumar’s party in Bihar where some issues were there over seat sharing for the 2019 elections. “The BJP has now made it clear that it is with the JDU for the long haul. But this development will be taken as bad news by our old allies, the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) as their say in the alliance in the state has decreased significantly. RLSP, especially, was putting pressure on us to dump Nitish,” a Bihar-based BJP leader said. Speculation is rife that Upendra Kushwaha’s RLSP may join hands with Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Congress in Bihar for the 2019 elections. There have also been reports of the RJD and Congress wooing Ram Bilas Paswan’s LJP.
The JDU, which joined hands with the BJP after ditching the “Grand Alliance” in July 2017, was waiting for a formal representation in government, something which the party leaders had repeatedly shared with the media. JDU has just six MPs in the Rajya Sabha against BJP’s 73.
“We are now happy as coalition dharma has been followed. The BJP has acted as an elder brother when it comes to national politics. In politics, when one is strong, one has to be magnanimous. With this single step, the BJP has ironed out all the differences that we had and we hope that 2019 will be smooth sailing from now on,” a JDU functionary said.
According to sources, realising the importance of support from the smaller parties, Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself called up Odisha Chief Minister and BJD chief, Naveen Patnaik and sought his support for the Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman’s election.
“Instead of asking either Amit Shah or Arun Singh (in charge of Odisha), PM Modi himself called up Naveen Babu, which made all the difference. PM Modi has started cultivating friends across the spectrum. Though this (calling up Patnaik) may not go down well with some of our leaders who have regional aspirations, the party has to think nationally,” a BJP MP said.
This was in sharp contrast tos the way Congress president Rahul Gandhi handled the Deputy Chairman’s election. As a Congress insider confided to this correspondent, Gandhi did not call up or speak to the Aam Admi Party (AAP) president, Arvind Kejriwal, as he was advised by the Congress’ Delhi leaders not to be seen as “friendly” with the AAP, even though both parties had the common goal of defeating the NDA candidate in the Rajya Sabha.