Based on alliances, it is advantage BJP - Hindustan Times
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Based on alliances, it is advantage BJP

ByBadri Narayan
Mar 23, 2019 05:55 PM IST

The difference between the 2014 and the 2019 election is that the former was fought under when the Modi magic was in full swing. This time around, it is going to be based on the electoral strength of alliance partners. But the inherent contradictions between many parties and interests of certain political groups are creating problems in the formation of alliances

In the upcoming parliamentary elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) seems to have a headstart in forging alliances with various regional parties. The party has also soothed the frayed tempers of their volatile partners like the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, the Apna Dal, led by Anupriya Patel, and the Suhal Deo Samaj Party, led by Om Prakash Rabhar, in Uttar Pradesh (UP). It has also roped in new alliances partners like the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) in Tamil Nadu.

The Congress may also keep its options open to form post-poll alliances with anti-BJP political forces in some states(Hindustan Times)
The Congress may also keep its options open to form post-poll alliances with anti-BJP political forces in some states(Hindustan Times)

The NDA has also stitched up partnerships in the Northeast. On the other hand, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) seems really slow off the blocks in finalising alliances with regional and other parties. However its alliances with parties like the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) led by Sharad Pawar in Maharashtra and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) led by Lalu Prasad Yadav and Tejashwi Yadav are almost finalised, but it has got nowhere in tying up with the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party (SP-BSP) in UP. The Congress alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi has also not happened. The alliance with Mamata Banerjee has got nowhere and the only silver lining in the cloud is that the Left parties in West Bengal have decided to not put up candidates in seats which the Congress is contesting in the state.

The difference between the 2014 and the 2019 election is that the former was fought under when the Modi magic was in full swing. This time around, it is going to be based on the electoral strength of alliance partners. That is why the NDA and UPA both are trying to win over as many as alliance partners possible. But the inherent contradictions between many parties and interests of certain political groups are creating problems in the formation of alliances. But then good politics lies in resolving those contradictions and stitching up grand alliances. BJP president, Amit Shah, is working round the clock to deal with the problems hindering alliances with potential partners. The Congress, on the other hand, at least in some states, seems to want to go it alone. Even in states where it is weak, it seems inclined to try and retrieve lost ground and rebuild its base rather than be dependent on regional parties.

In Tamil Nadu, however, it seems to have an alliance with the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in the bag. It’s true that the Pulwama-Balakot issue may have created a shift in the electoral discourse. But the outcome of these elections depends on the strengths and weaknesses of alliance partners.

The mahagathbandhan (grand alliance) may appear in various states as an undeclared informal agreement among some parties in the form of not putting up candidates against each other. This could be the case in West Bengal between the Left parties and the Congress. In Bihar, an alliance of the RJD, Congress, Lok Janshankati Party (LJP) led by Upendra Kushwaha, Hindustani Awam Party led by Jeetan Ram Manjhi and Left parties is in the works. In Jharkhand, the RJD, Congress and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) together are perhaps going to stand together against the BJP.

In UP, the Congress may emerge as a strong third block and harm both the SP-BSP alliance and the BJP. However, the Balakot effect may hold back some forward caste voters and some undecided voters from opting for the Congress. But even so, the Congress is still a favoured option for some of the forward castes like the Brahmins. If they plump for the Congress, then the BJP will be affected. If the Congress succeeds in influencing a section of the Muslim vote, it will affect the SP-BSP alliances. So, it would be strategically correct for the SP-BSP and Congress to form an alliance in UP to stop the fragmentation of the non-BJP votes. The problem here is that since the opposition has been so late in forming alliances at the state and national level, will it be possible to transfer votes among parties? I think it will be really difficult to disseminate the right message to their grassroots supports about the alliance and its candidate. However, it is likely that the more politically aware supporters may carry the message of alliance to the grassroots through verbal communication, posters, banners, social media sites, mobile messages etc. The media will certainly play a crucial role in disseminating such messages .But creating a positive chemistry among the cadres of various parties of the alliances will remain a challenge.

The BJP is moving towards formally declared pre-poll alliances, while the UPA is proceeding towards informal pre-poll agreements to not to contest against each other. The Congress may also keep its options open to form post-poll alliances with anti-BJP political forces in some states. So, for the moment, it would seem that it is advantage BJP.

Badri Narayan is a professor at Govind Ballabh Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad

The views expressed are personal

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