Now that the Congress is wilting across the country, Modi’s main opponents would be three types of strong state leaders. Here’s how he should deal with them.
Yesterday (19 May) was a good day for the regional players. Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK upset the pollsters and broke the three-decade-old tradition of rotational politics by retaining Tamil Nadu handsomely. Few are surprised by Mamata Banerjee’s win. But everyone is astounded by her mammoth victory - re-election with more than two-thirds majority and 45% of the voteshare in a multipolar contest.
Congress was obviously the biggest loser. It’s decline since 2013 has been truly secular throughout the country. It has roughly 22 percent of the total MLAs in the country. BJP’s share is 27 percent while regional parties have more than 50 percent of the MLAs. This will obviously have a bearing on the Rajya Sabha strength and the grand old party of India will see its strength waning very soon. 57 seats will go to polls on 11 June.
According to this Times Of India report, NDA is set to take over Congress in the upper house. Though, the Congress (60 MPs) will remain the single largest party, the tally of UPA (70 MPs) will be lower than that of the NDA (76 MPs) after the 11 June biennial polls. To sum up, as R. Jagannathan did in this Swarajya post, the BJP’s main challengers today are the regional parties.
There are the three types of strong regional players in the country today. The BJP should apply a three-pronged strategy in dealing with them. This will help the party not just electorally but also make governing India easier.
First, are the likes of Jayalalitha, Naveen Patnaik and Chandrababu Naidu. They shouldn’t be seen as rivals by the BJP but potential allies. (Andhra chief minister is already an ally thanks to the mutual respect Modi and Naidu share about their administrative capabilities)
These three leaders have more or less made peace with the reality that their chances of making it to 7RCR are bleak. They seem to be happy in their states. They also haven’t displayed hatred for Modi. The BJP should try to keep it that way because apart from helping it overcome Congress obstructionism in Rajya Sabha, the state leaders are party’s best bet to forward without much confrontation post 2019, if it falls short of majority.
Second in the list are the likes of Mulayam, Mayawati, Nitish, Mamata, K Chandrashekhar Rao, who aren’t potential allies but can be reasoned with and their help can be taken at times to pass important bills. For instance, all these have given an in-principal approval to the GST bill. The party should certainly wield the stick to try to take these parties head on when the elections are around but should also be willing to use the carrot when the situation demands. Modi’s experience as a Chief Minister can really come in handy here. The proverbial carrot can be about sincerely listening to their grievances and solve them. “Team India” slogan of Modi shouldn’t be just a slogan. And Chief Ministers should feel this. It’s very hard to hate a person, who is always willing to help you.
Arvind Kejriwal and Lalu Prasad Yadav fall in third category. They seek nothing but confrontation. Kerjiwal may not be a serious player today but if he wins Punjab and start making significant dent in other states, he could be a serious threat. Lalu’s hatred for Modi and the RSS is all too visible and incurable. There is no chance of reconciliation with them. They just have to be defeated whatever it takes. They are ideological allies of the Congress party and should be treated like one.
These lessons are for both Amit Shah and Modi. The former’s job is to expand the party base and take it to new electoral heights. The latter’s job is to govern and lead India well.
Expanding the party base is important to govern well (as is evident from the case of stuck bills in Rajya Sabha) but it would become impossible if the BJP keeps picking irrelevant fights with every other party and antagonizing them. It will have to treat some with respect, keep some in good humour while fighting the rest both on the ground and ideologically.
PM Modi must live up to his own party’s slogan: Nation first, Party second.