Anita Katyal | BJP eyes amity with Pawars... AAP still keeping an open mind?

The Asian Age.  | Anita Katyal

Opinion, Columnists

As all political parties start preparing for 2024 general election, there are signs of concern among BJP MPs about their political future.

NCP Chief Sharad Pawar. (PTI)

The Bharatiya Janata Party finds itself in a bind in Maharashtra even after it successfully engineered a split in the Nationalist Congress Party and improved its numerical strength in the state assembly. The party realises that it needs a strong Maratha leader in order to enjoy an upper hand over its political rivals in next year’s Assembly polls. Its internal surveys are said to have shown that chief minister and former Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde has limited influence while deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, the new entrant to the ruling coalition, could deliver the Maratha vote but he would be better placed to do so if he is elevated as chief minister. The BJP is constrained from doing so as it could mean alienating Mr Shinde and the group of Shiv Sena legislators who could even be tempted to join hands with  Uddhav Thackeray. With NCP veteran Sharad Pawar scoring over the younger leaders, the BJP is learnt to have advised his nephew Ajit Pawar not to attack his uncle and instead try to win him over to their side with an offer of a berth in the Union Cabinet. Though Mr Pawar has denied these reports, he is keeping everyone guessing about his periodic meetings with his nephew. Mr Pawar, remarked a former Congress leader, cannot be trusted and yet no one can afford to alienate him.

Though Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has found a place in the anti-BJP grouping, INDIA, the other Opposition parties continue to be wary of him and feel he cannot be trusted. There is a section in this bloc which is convinced that Mr Kejriwal could still walk out following the passage of the Delhi Services Bill for which he wanted the support of the other opposition parties. The BJP, which is making all-out efforts to create fissures in the INDIA bloc, has figured that Mr Kejriwal could still be persuaded to go solo since he has supported the Modi government on several issues including the abrogation of Article 370 and the need for a Uniform Civil Code. In fact, a senior BJP minister, who was seated a distance away from Mr Kejriwal at the Independence Day programme, moved to sit next to the chief minister and continuously questioned him about his decision to align with a dynastic party like the  Congress and whether  he would concede seats to it in Punjab and Delhi.

Even as Congress leaders K.C. Venugopal and Jairam Ramesh are finalising Rahul Gandhi’s East-West Bharat Jodo Yatra, beginning October 2 from Gujarat, the party is mulling over how it can to bring its allies on board. This is crucial as the Congress would not like to give the impression to the other members of INDIA bloc that they are being upstaged, especially since the Yatra route is likely to go through Bihar, West Bengal and Jharkhand before it ends in Arunachal Pradesh. The Congress is expected to impress upon its allies that the Yatra could be used to boost the INDIA alliance. Congress leaders will also underline that their partnership would be further strengthened if chief ministers Mamata Banerjee, Hemant Soren and Nitish Kumar joined Rahul Gandhi for a day or two during the Yatra. This issue could figure at the August 30 meeting of INDIA parties in Mumbai.

When the Bharatiya Janata Party extended a special invitation to Lok Janshakti Party leader Chirag Paswan at the last meeting of the National Democratic Alliance, it was obvious this was aimed at strengthening the saffron party’s Dalit base in Bihar as it needs all the help it can get after the Janata Dal (United) walked out of their alliance. Efforts were also made to bring together Mr Paswan and his estranged uncle Pashupati Kumar Paras who split the party two years ago. However, these unity efforts could come unstuck as three MPs — Chandan Singh, Been Devi and Mehmood Ali Kaiser — who had aligned with Paswan’s uncle during the split are said to be exploring other options. They are learned to be in touch with the JD(U) and may switch sides closer to the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. If this happens, it may be difficult for a weakened LJP to contribute substantially to the BJP’s kitty of seats.

As all political parties start preparing for the 2024 general election, there are signs of concern among the Bharatiya Janata Party MPs about their political future. Many point out in private conversations that they could face the axe on the ground that the voters were unhappy with their performance when the truth is that they were unable to deliver because they were not given sufficient functional autonomy. Others are nervous that the BJP’s over-dependence on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity has not allowed them to evolve and acquire their own identity. And then there are the first-time MPs who are particularly worried as there is every possibility that they may not get a ticket again. The BJP leadership has, on several occasions in the past, axed its sitting legislators. The experiment proved to be a success.