When it comes to electoral politics, arithmetic matters more than chemistry. That is why for both the major national parties, the BJP and the Congress, alliances matter.
However, the strategy adopted by the BJP — as opposed to that of the opposition parties — is a study in contrast.
The BJP has shown greater alacrity and willingness to go the extra distance in order to sew up its alliances with disgruntled allies like the Shiv Sena, Akali Dal and Apna Dal — as opposed to its opponents.
After the ice, the thaw: BJP President Amit Shah with Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis (Photo: PTI)
The BJP has swallowed its pride and won over the Sena in Maharashtra. In Bihar, it has decided to contest only 17 seats — four less than the 21 it had won in 2014. Up against the formidable SP, BSP, RLD alliance in Uttar Pradesh, it has sought to shore up its flanks by mollifying Om Prakash Rajbhar and Anupriya Patel’s Apna Dal. Despite all the sabre-rattling in the last couple of months — even in Punjab — it is all set to announce a seat-sharing arrangement with one of its oldest allies, the Akali Dal.
Do we stand? Or fall? While the mega rally held by the opposition gave great optics, a precise alliance is still a question mark. (Photo: PTI)
Contrast this with the picture in the opposition camp.
For all the grand optics and fanfare that was on display at Bangalore and Kolkata, the opposition parties are yet to sew up their alliances. In Bengal, Mamata Banerjee intends going it alone, while Mayawati is unrelenting in her opposition to sharing with the Congress in Uttar Pradesh — not just that, she has decided to contest along with the SP in a large number of seats that the Congress held in the states of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
In Delhi, the Congress has said “No” to a seat-sharing arrangement with Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP. In Bihar, the RJD and the Congress have managed to come to an agreement on the number of seats the two parties will contest — Jitinram Manjhi and Upendra Kushwaha are holding out for a few more seats. In both Karnataka and Jharkhand, the Congress and its allies are still haggling over seats.
Congress managed an alliance with the DMK in Tamil Nadu, called by DMK leader Stalin (L) with TN Congress Committee President KS Alagiri (R) (Source: PTI)
At the heart of the problem lies the reluctance of the Congress and the regional parties' contention to yield space to each other in their respective strongholds.
The Congress failed to accommodate the BSP and the SP in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan — and the two parties have decided to pay the Congress back with the same coin in Uttar Pradesh. Similarly, Mamata Banerjee wants to squeeze the Congress out and has decided to contest in all the 42 seats in West Bengal.
Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu are the two success stories as far as alliances are concerned — the Congress and its allies have managed to seal the seat-sharing arrangement in both these states.
Wave, plus: BJP strategists have realised that they cannot rely on a 'Modi wave' alone. They will need to do more. (Photo: Reuters)
While the Congress and its allies are still fighting their turf battles, the BJP has shown a willingness to take a step back and accommodate its allies in order to keep their alliance intact.
Its strategists realise that they cannot rely on Prime Minister Modi’s charisma alone — they also need a strong and broad social alliance. The kind of alliance that propelled the saffron party to power in 2014.
Those strategising for the opposition parties believe that the failure to work out a pre-poll alliance will not come in the way of coming together after the elections. The opposition parties were initially banking on ensuring a one-to-one fight against the BJP in a substantial number of seats, so as to avoid a division of the anti-BJP vote. As things stand, the opposition is nowhere near achieving that objective — that, in the ultimate analysis, could prove to be their undoing.