On Sunday afternoon, BJP president Rajnath Singh sounded quite cheerful over the phone despite the arrest of his party men in a communal carnage, leaving 48 people dead in Muzaffarnagar, and the UP government’s refusal to let him visit the riot-hit areas.
Because Singh could sense that his party had finally managed to make inroads into western UP, as the Rashtriya Lok Dal’s Jat-Muslim combine is losing its traditional clout.
Speculations were rife that RLD chief and the UPA’s civil aviation minister Ajit Singh had no option but to come back to the NDA before the 2014 polls. Ajit Singh, who left the NDA to join the Congress-led UPA shortly before the 2012 UP elections, recently met UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde on the Jat reservation issue — an excuse for changing camps in case the demand is not conceded.
But asked whether the RLD could come back to the NDA, Singh answered with a question: “What is the need?” He claimed many political parties were in touch with him for a seat on the NDA high table. Only the previous day, he met Telugu Desam Party chief Chandrababu Naidu.
All he would say was: “Wait and watch. The numerical deficit that we face now will be covered effortlessly to reach the magical figure.”
The BJP has a different alliance-making strategy this time. Party sources made it clear that only those outfits which grew on anti-Congress slogans — such as the AGP, BJD, AIDMK, Shiv Sena and the MNS — would be eligible for alliance.
And who in the party is better qualified than Singh to manage a motley crowd?
Consider this: The 29-day-old Kalyan Singh government of the BJP is in the soup in UP in 1997. Coalition partner BSP abruptly withdraws support after completing its first six months in power. The deal is to rotate in power every six months.
Governor Romesh Bhandari gives 48 hours to BJP CM Kalayan Singh — 38 seats short — to prove his majority on the floor of the house. State party chief Rajnath takes charge, bonding with rival legislators and breaking several parties to finally come up with a 90-member jumbo ministry led by the BJP.
Again when the Loktantrik Congress Party minister Jagdambika Pal staged a coup by dislodging Kalyan Singh in 1998 to form his own government with backing from the SP, BSP and Congress, it was Rajnath who arranged two aircraft to take all the legislators to the Rashtrapati Bhawan for a midnight headcount. Kalyan Singh was back in power in 48 hours.
But Kalyan Singh had a different take on Rajnath after leaving the BJP: “He (Rajnath) turned out to be too cunning and ambitious. I made a mistake by trusting him. He targeted me later for his own political advancement.”
Rajnath has one problem he may find tough to solve. After BJP leader Pramod Mahajan’s death, managing ties with the Shiv Sena has become an issue, especially with Uddhav in control of the Sena, following Balasaheb Thackeray’s death.
It became clear when the Sena favoured Sushma Swaraj, and not Narendra Modi, as the NDA’s prime ministerial candidate. The reason could have been former BJP chief Nitin Gadkari’s proximity to Uddhav’s cousin and rival Raj Thackeray of the MNS — an offshoot of the Sena.
Now, can the BJP’s alliance-builder rope in the support of both the cousins? For, every seat will matter in 2014.