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HindustanTimes Sat,20 Sep 2014

BJP’s poll-time mind gaming for robust presence in LS, RS

Vinod Sharma, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, May 07, 2014
First Published: 00:31 IST(7/5/2014) | Last Updated: 01:04 IST(7/5/2014)

Is there a political narrative to nuggets of information about the BJP’s post-electoral plans to change governors and dislodge precariously-perched regimes in Bihar, Uttarakhand and Jharkhand?

Perhaps! Predicated on the presumption of a victory with numbers large enough to effect these changes, the strategy —though questionable in the framework of a federal polity —makes sense from the BJP’s standpoint.
 
Not only does the party hopeful of power need a strong presence in the Lok Sabha, it requires robust support in the Upper House to make policy and pass legislation.

The best hope for Narendra Modi is in the parliamentary elections in provinces where he cannot topple regimes. But gain hold his party would, wherever it can, of state assemblies that send members to the Rajya Sabha.

Poor arithmetic in the House of Elders can confront the BJP with the hurdles it erected for the UPA to block legislation over the past decade.
If that happens, its government will be out on a limb like its UPA predecessor.

Regardless of its strength in the Lower House, legislative logjams in the RS could unravel sooner than later Modi’s painstakingly cultivated image of a strong administrator.

Gubernatorial changes, if at all, might have to precede the BJP’s bid to prop up leaderships in existing Houses or force fresh elections. While the assemblies in Bihar and Uttarakhand might see permutations and combinations de novo, Delhi and Jharkhand (elections due next year) could have new Houses.

Governors play a crucial role when assemblies are in suspended animation or are effecting leadership changes, including election of Speakers. If it comes to power, the BJP-NDA would have to move cautiously on that front; more so when a 2010 Supreme Court judgment placed checks on arbitrary removal of governors.

Its assertions of the change of guard in some states ruled by rival parties are expected to embolden the electorate there to vote without fear of retribution by local regimes in the ongoing parliamentary polls.

Elections are over in Jharkhand, but polling is due in Uttarakhand and 13 remaining seats of Bihar.

But such mind-gaming works only in provinces with fragmented Houses; not where ruling dispensations have decisive numbers.

That explains the saffron party’s allegations of rigging in UP and West Bengal, where the SP and the Trinamool are in control of assemblies. The last two phases will cover 33 seats in UP and 23 in Bengal.

The saffron brigade’s concerns are legitimate, even if exaggerated. State bureaucracies and police do tend to be partial towards provincial regimes.

To minimise the local administration’s influence on the poll process, political parties need to make noises of foul play to pressure the election commission to make effective deployment of para-military forces. That’s what the BJP has done.

It’s another matter that no party is above such attempts to manipulate elections.


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