BJP chief Amit Shah wakes up to the importance of old and new allies

Some of the BJP’s allies are upset at being ignored
In recent weeks, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Amit Shah has tried to reach out some of his party’s miffed allies, and is also exploring alliances with smaller parties wherever his party's support base has traditionally been weak.

The BJP is trying to mend fences with its existing allies, but wishes to make new allies in states where opposition parties plan to forge an ‘index of opposition unity’ to defeat the BJP. Shah is currently on a nationwide tour to win new friends and influence people.

On Monday, Shah was in Chennai. He said his party would “respect” its old friends and expand the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance by bringing in “new friends”. "We will give respect to our existing allies and bring in new friends before the Lok Sabha elections and give the nation a clean government," Shah told a meeting of BJP workers on the outskirts of Chennai.

Some of the BJP’s allies are upset at being ignored.

In Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena has threatened to sever ties with the BJP for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Shah has tried to reach out Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray.

In Andhra Pradesh, N Chandrababu Naidu-led Telugu Desam Party (TDP) quit the NDA in March. The BJP currently has no allies in the state. The YSR Congress Party and Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena Party could be BJP’s potential allies in the state, but most likely in a post-poll scenario. In 2014, BJP was in alliance with TDP and won three seats in the state.

In Telangana, the BJP is in search of allies against the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samiti. However, the Congress is the principal opposition in that state. The BJP game plan would be to limit Congress party’s winnings from the state.

In Bihar, Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) is insistent that BJP give it an honorable seat sharing arrangement for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Shah is slated to meet Kumar on July 12. Of Bihar’s 40-seats, Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party would need to be given its six sitting seats. Of the rest, JD (U) wants to fight an equal number of seats as the BJP.

There is a question mark on whether Upendra Kushwaha-led Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) will continue in the NDA. The RLSP had won three Lok Sabha seats in 2014. Its exit from NDA would mean the JD (U) and BJP contesting 17-seats each with Paswan’s party contesting six. The BJP had contested 29 of Bihar's 40-seats in 2014, winning 22.

In Jharkhand, the Congress is moving towards putting in place a grand alliance comprising the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, Jharkhand Vikas Morcha, Rashtriya Janata Dal and itself. The All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU), which had fought the Jharkhand assembly polls along with the BJP in 2014, is upset with that party. The BJP had won 12 of Jharkhand's 14 Lok Sabha seats in 2014.

In Assam, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, has led to strain between the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and BJP. Interestingly, the potential Congress and Badruddin Ajmal-led All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) alliance is also in trouble. On Monday, Ajmal held a meeting in Dhubri where he claimed several workers of the Congress, BJP, AGP and Left parties joined AIUDF. In 2014, BJP won 7 of the 14 seats. It subsequently also won the assembly elections.

In Tamil Nadu, the BJP had won one seat in 2014. It is now looking for allies. The state’s ruling AIADMK is a potential ally, but is much weakened after the death of its charismatic leader J Jayalalithaa. On paper, the Congress has a more potent alliance that is likely to comprise the DMK, the Left parties and itself. Film actor Rajinikanth has been cold to BJP’s overtures.

In Uttar Pradesh, the BJP has reached out to some of its upset allies, including Apna Dal and Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party. It would need to align with non-Yadav OBC parties to counter the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party alliance.

There is some bad news for the BJP in Odisha, where the Congress is trying to reclaim lost ground as the principal opposition to Naveen Patnaik-led Biju Janata Dal. A three-cornered fight is likely to help Patnaik.

In Punjab, the Shiromani Akali Dal is also upset with the BJP, but has little alternative other than continuing with the alliance.

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