The Karnataka effect

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BJP president Amit Shah is busy making pilgrimages to places he had rarely bothered to visit while his party logged a steady record of victories in state elections. His first port of call was Matoshree, home to Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray to be followed by a closed-door meeting with the Badals in Chandigarh. His boss, PM Modi is on a pacifying and reconciliation mission too: an olive branch to party veteran LK Advani after studiously ignoring him all these years and there is talk of rapprochement with other estranged party elders as well. A walk-back in politics, as in war, is an accepted tactic to cut the losses and recoup energy. The message from the high-value losses in UP and Karnataka seems to be that the BJP’s brand of ethno-religious political activism and the Modi charisma may not be adequate in a bipolar competition in 2019. It is also a realisation that the NDA needs to again summon the spirit of 2014 but with a slight twist in the arrangement: it is no longer the rising tide of Modi’s populism and antipathy to the Congress that unconditionally brought allies to the BJP’s fold. The Congress’ readiness to take the backseat in Karnataka and play the understudy to the BSP and SP in UP have also brought a matching pressure on the BJP to be accommodative to its allies as well. However, power brings in its own complications. The BJP has a much harder task on hand in trying to separately renegotiate the terms of alliance with its partners. For its allies of UP and Bihar, the BJP needs to allay their fears of abandonment and emasculation; with Akali Dal and Shiv Sena, conciliation is easier on the back of decades of association but the ball game in the South is different: the BJP may have invested in the wrong AIADMK faction in Tamil Nadu, is without a partner in Karnataka and divorced but not separated with the TDP in Andhra.  J&K also requires a greater flexibility of alignment. A helping hand from the sidelined elders could make this arduous task easier.

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