As BJP veteran LK Advani wrapped up his anti-corruption Jan Chetna Yatra on Sunday, the partyrealised its priority lies in strengthening the NDA alliance by finding new allies and retaining the old ones.
Just as Janata Dal (United) chief Nitish Kumar was roped in to flag off the yatra on October 11, key BJP leaders worked behind the scenes to ensure that the finale was attended by NDA leaders and a surprise entrant from AIADMK, an emissary of Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa.
Jayalalithaa’s decision to send a representative was a culmination of contacts over time.
BJP general secretary Ravi Shankar Prasad, who accompanied Advani throughout the yatra, had been in touch with the AIADMK chief. He was the one who managed to persuade her to send AIADMK leader in Lok Sabha M Thambi Durai to participate in the finale.
Prasad had enjoyed good rapport with Jayalalithaa since his days as law and information and broadcasting minister, when he had expedited clearance for the launch of Jaya TV.
When Jayalalithaa visited Delhi after the TN assembly polls, Prasad and his wife had called on her. That was also the time when the Centre refused her pleas for a special package for the state, which had spurred her to show support for Advani’s yatra now.
Moreover, in 2008, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi had invited Jayalalithaa for the swearing-in ceremony of his government in Gandhinagar. She had reciprocated by inviting him to attend a similar function after her victory in the April elections.
In case of Janata Dal(United), BJP leaders Arun Jaitley and Nitin Gadkari persuaded Kumar to flag off the yatra — a last-minute face-saver by the party after the venue had got mired in a controversy involving Modi. But unlike in other BJP-ruled states, the yatra’s foray into Punjab brought out the faultlines in the ruling Akali Dal-BJP coalition and within the saffron party itself.