After Delhi, BJP Should Thump Its Chest Less And Worry More About Losing Allies

After Delhi, BJP Should Thump Its Chest Less And Worry More About Losing AlliesPrime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah. (PUNIT PARANJPE/AFP/Getty Images)
Snapshot
  • The right political strategy for the BJP under Narendra Modi is not to thump its chest about being the sole superpower in Indian politics, but to ensure that all its allies remain allies, and its enemies are offered deals they cannot easily refuse.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which won ample majorities in all the three Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) polls yesterday (26 April), would do well to not get carried away by this victory. One look at the vote share figures will tell you why.

In MCD (North), the BJP got 35.63 per cent of the popular vote, while Congress got 20.73 per cent and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) 27.88 per cent. In South, the respective figures for BJP, Congress and AAP were 34.87 per cent, 20.29 per cent and 26.44 per cent; in East, the numbers were 38.61 per cent, 22.84 per cent and 23.4 per cent (see the vote share figures here).

Put simply, the BJP got 35-38 per cent of the vote, and Congress plus AAP 46-47 per cent between them. This should be a cause for worry, not mindless chortling over the AAP’s failure this time.

The point is this: the BJP’s victory is the result of the non-BJP vote splitting vertically between AAP and Congress. Its own vote shares have not grown dramatically. In 2015, AAP won a decisive victory as the anti-BJP vote shifted from Congress to it.

The implications the latest Delhi vote are these.

One, whenever there is tactical voting, if anti-BJP votes polarise, the BJP could lose. This should give cause for pause not only in Delhi, but also in Maharashtra, where the BJP, under pressure from the Shiv Sena, is toying with the idea of calling a snap poll to win a decisive majority on its own. It could go the other way entirely. Not only that, as the senior partner now, it is upto the BJP to show some consideration to a beleaguered ally.

Two, in Delhi, one should not rule out the possibility of the Congress and AAP coming together at least to ensure tactical voting. In 2013, the Congress party supported AAP from the outside, and it was Arvind Kejriwal’s greediness to acquire solus power that ended this experiment. Now, after the MCD polls, a chastened Kejriwal may be more than willing to have a tacit seat-sharing arrangement with the Congress in 2019. Some Delhi Lok Sabha seats could then move away from the BJP.

India’s history shows that whenever one party acquires huge strength, the others gang up to pull it down. This happened during the Indira Gandhi years, when opposition parties – from Left to Right – overcame their contradictions to take on her time and again. It finally triumphed only in 1977, when the Emergency made the sinking of contradictions essential to opposition survival.

But unlike the opposition to the Indira Gandhi-led Congress, where the opposition’s ideologies were too diverse to allow for too much tactical collaboration, the anti-BJP front has more reason to collaborate, for all parties are broadly to the Left of the BJP.

It is also worth recalling Indira Gandhi’s tactics to split the Left; by taking the Congress Left, she got the CPI to back her, leaving the CPI(M) to head in a different direction.

The right political strategy for the BJP under Narendra Modi is not to thump its chest about being the sole superpower in Indian politics, but ensure that all its allies remain allies, and its enemies are offered deals they cannot easily refuse.

The time to begin is during the presidential elections, when the BJP should ensure that the Shiv Sena, Telugu Desam and Lok Janshakti Party stay on its side, not to speak of the non-allies who are increasingly growing worried about the BJP’s growing footprint – among them, the Biju Janata Dal, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the YSR Congress, et al.

To win the presidential poll, the BJP needs at least one of these non-allies to sign up, but that is only assuming it keeps its present allies intact.

In 2019, it is more than likely that the BJP will face a Mahaganthbandhan, at least in some crucial states if not the whole country. That is the reality against which the BJP must frame its policies towards allies and non-inimical allies.

It is glorious to win big repeatedly, but the main lesson in history is that the elephant must not crush its tiny allies while rolling over in its sleep – or from a lack of humility. Or else the rest will conspire against it to bring it down.

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