There is no better way BJP should reciprocate the good governance provided by Narendra Modi in his first term.
The Narendra Modi government won the no-confidence motion introduced by TDP comfortably by securing 325 votes versus 126, who voted in favour of no confidence motion. If BJP could reflect upon how it managed to provide a stable, decisive, performing and corrupt-free government since it formed the government in 2014 and the decision of Shiv Sena, its alliance partner to stay away from the no confidence vote, it would throw insights for BJP on how to handle alliance partners who have been throwing a tantrum and demanding more than their due share from BJP.
Shiv Sena is the earliest alliance partner of BJP and ideologically closer to BJP than any other party in India. Still, the two parties parted away before 2014 Maharashtra assembly elections on the issue of who should be the big brother. Shiv Sena had been enjoying the big brother status in the NDA alliance for a very long time till 2014 Maharashtra assembly election, when they parted away. Emergence of BJP as the single largest party in 2014 Maharashta assembly elections both in terms of seats and vote share enabled BJP to form the government and make its candidate CM for the first time in the history of Maharashtra, indeed with the support of Shiv Sena. Unable to stomach that Shiv Sena, once a dominant partner of NDA in Maharashtra, had to play second fiddle to BJP in Maharashtra, Uddav Thackery and Shiv Sena has been passing acerbic comments on BJP and Modi incessantly much more than any opposition party, despite being part of both Union government and Maharashtra government. Amit Shah’s pacifying efforts did not yield results. Shiv Sena has the option of contesting alone but that could push them to third position after Congress-NCP alliance and BJP. The second option of aligning with Congress-NCP is not altogether impossible, but it will create existential crisis for Shiv Sena, as it is as good as granting its strong Hindutva support base to BJP on a golden platter. The third option is to eat humble pie by aligning with BJP since Shiv Sena already declared that it will not align with BJP for 2019 general elections. So, none of the three options before Shiv Sena show prospects for Shiv Sena and Shiv Sena has been at sea regarding whether to align with BJP or not and confusing BJP too.
In Bihar, JD(U) has been demanding more seats from BJP for 2019 general elections. If NDA wants to retain the thirty-one seats it won in 2014 general elections, it cannot give more than 9 seats to JD(U). The fact of the matter is that JD(U) is third in popularity and vote share compared to the first position of BJP and the second position of RJD in Bihar. A closer look at the votes polled to JD(U) and the seats won by JD(U) in the last 20 years indicate that despite being the CM for more than 10 years, Nitish has not become charismatic leader who can fetch votes of Bihar electorate single-handedly.
Unlike what some political pundits or journalists claim, neither the support base of JD(U) nor the organisational strength of JD(U) expanded so much so that it reached a dominant position in Bihar politics. Due to this, JD(U)’s strike rate has been poor in relation with its alliance partner, whether it is BJP or RJD in the previous elections.
In this backdrop, it is to be seen how BJP should handle these two alliance partners. Before devising any strategy, BJP should think how Modi has been able to deliver such a decisive, corrupt-free, performing, fearless dispensation in the last four years. It is true that NDA has been ruling the Union of India and not BJP alone since 2014. However, it is the simple majority for BJP that made all the difference that reduced the tantrums of alliance partners. Except TDP and Shiv Sena, almost all other alliance partners have fallen in line with the Modi government on almost all issues. If BJP has not obtained simple majority in 2014 elections, either the alliance partners could have hijacked the government to wherever they want and thereby bring a bad name for Modi government or could have toppled Modi government. Let us consider two cases, the first case is when BJP alone gets 260 seats and NDA gets 300 seats and the second case is when BJP alone gets 275 seats and NDA gets 295 seats in 2019 elections. It does not require great political acumen to say that Modi will be able to provide a stable, corrupt-free, performing and decisive government in his second term, if the outcome of 2019 elections is of as per the second case. Given his understanding of governance in the first term, Modi will be able to deliver much better in his second term if BJP gets simple majority than NDA getting simple majority. So, the criteria of BJP getting simple majority should be the yardstick for BJP to deal with its allies.
First let us see how BJP should handle Shiv Sena. Devandra Fadnavis as a CM has been delivering a good governance in Maharashtra and in that process established BJP as a dominant political force clearly in the state. Even in the absence of alliance with Shiv Sena, BJP could win to some extent in Maharashtra against Congress-NCP, if not convincingly. Based on this gumption only, BJP president Amit Shah instructed BJP cadres to be ready to go alone in 2019 general elections. After having showed ill will against BJP incessantly, even if Shiv Sena decides to join NDA again, it is not sure whether it will benefit BJP electorally. BJP certainly must do the cost-benefit analysis of aligning with Shiv Sena with the objective of maximising its winning seats and the decision to align with Shiv Sena should be based on the same. If BJP has to go without aligning with Shiv Sena in 2019 elections in Maharashtra, the BJP-Shiv Sena government will fall. Nevertheless, as it will be the last of year of dispensation for the state government, BJP does not have to bother too much on the same.
Let us see how BJP should handle JD(U) in Bihar. The alliance of BJP and JD(U) is peculiar as the first and third party in popularity has aligned against RJD, the second party in popularity. If the votes secured by NDA and JD(U) in 2014 general elections are added, the new NDA should get 54.60 per cent of votes. It gives an impression that the election is a cakewalk for NDA. However, there are two vexatious issues in this alliance. The first issue is that whenever political parties, whose vote share go beyond 50 per cent, join to form an alliance, the distribution of seats become extremely difficult, unless every constituent of the alliance is ready to take a cut on their seats. Even if BJP decides to allocate seats for JD(U) based on the votes it gained in 2014 general elections, it cannot allocate not more than 13 seats in 2019 general elections. The second issue for BJP is that JD(U) may not turn the allotted seats into winning seats as much as BJP does. Given the fact that every seat is crucial for BJP to gain simple majority, allocating more seats for JD(U) may not be a wise idea. Giving away too many seats for JD(U) could jeopardise the BJP’s objective of securing simple majority on its own. Given this, BJP may have to bargain hard with JD(U) and other alliance partners in Bihar in seat sharing for 2019 elections.
Thus, obtaining simple majority on its own should be the sole objective of BJP while dealing with its alliance partners. There is no better way BJP should reciprocate the good governance provided by Narendra Modi in his first term.
The writer is a consultant and a researcher. He can be reached at email@example.com.