After setback in bypolls, Amit Shah lines up meetings with allies as BJP shifts to outreach mode
BJP president Amit Shah is on an outreach tour to Maharashtra, Punjab following BJP defeats in bypolls and Karnataka assembly elections. He will meet Akali Dal and Shiv Sena leaders this week.india Updated: Jun 06, 2018 13:27 IST
Amidst rumblings within the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and a setback in the recent bypolls, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Amit Shah will reach out to key allies of the party including the Shiromani Akali Dal and the disgruntled Shiv Sena over this week.
The meetings come against the backdrop of the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) outmanoeuvring the BJP to form the government in Karnataka and the efforts of opposition parties to cobble together a broad-based coalition against the Narendra Modi government for next year’s Lok Sabha elections.
Shah will be in Mumbai on Wednesday as part of the ongoing Sampark for Samarthan (Contact for Support) initiative and meet Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackreya at the latter’s residence. He will travel to Punjab on Thursday to meet SAD patriarch Prakash Singh Badal and former Punjab deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal.
The date for Shah’s meeting with Bihar chief minister and Janata Dal (United) leader Nitish Kumar has not been finalised, although people aware of the developments said the interaction will take place soon. People familiar with the matter say it is likely he will meet other allies as well.
The BJP has already lost its biggest southern ally, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in March, and its relationship with the Shiv Sena has hit a low. The two parties fought each other in the Palghar Lok Sabha seat in the recent byolls, and while the BJP candidate won, the Shiv Sena demanded a recount and then called the BJP its “biggest political enemy”.
Before the TDP pulled out of the NDA, the Shiv Sena’s mouthpiece Saamana slammed the BJP for what it termed “ill-treatment of its alliance partners”.
While the BJP’s Bihar ally, the JD (U) hasn’t been as vocal as the Shiv Sena, it has, in recent days, emphasised that it is the senior partner in the alliance in Bihar and blamed the BJP for the loss in an assembly seat in the recent by-elections.
The Akali Dal, too, has opposed the BJP on various issues including the appointment of the chairman and members of the National Minority Commission. It has also accused the BJP of not taking all NDA partners into confidence on important issues. The SAD’s Harsimrat Kaur Badal, a minister in the Modi Cabinet, had threatened to quit if the demand for waiving off GST on purchases for langar (community kitchens at Gurudwaras) services was not met. The government eventually accepted this demand.
Meetings will also be scheduled between Shah and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Jammu and Kashmir, and partners in Jharkhand and the North-east, a party functionary said on condition of anonymity.
While party officials dubbed the meetings as “routine” and for “better coordination during the elections”, the engagements will be closely watched since ties between the alliance partners have been wobbly off late.
With most partners hardening their positions in what analysts see as a bargaining strategy ahead of the next Lok Sabha elections in 2019, Shah’s job is cut out. He will not only have to retain the existing allies, but also widen the support base for the BJP as it makes a bid to return to power at the Centre and in a clutch of states going to polls later this year.
Sanjay Kumar of the Centre for Study of Developing Societies said the meetings with the allies are an exercise akin to “testing waters”.
“Meetings with Thackeray and the Badals will not be courtesy calls. They acquire significance since there have been reports of allies being angry [over issues] and these meetings will allow Shah to get a sense of their concerns,” Kumar said.
He said meeting with allies should not be conflated with the ongoing Sampark for Samarthan, wherein the party boss has been trying to create a favourable atmosphere for the BJP ahead of the polls.
A second BJP functionary who asked not to be identified said too much shouldn’t be read into Shah’s meetings with allies. “Alliances are dynamic and BJP is making all efforts to ensure a strong united, coordinated effort,” this person said.
The BJP is hosting a dinner for its allies in Patna on Thursday. It will be attended by the CM, the deputy CM, BJP general secretary Bhupinder Yadav, Bihar chief Nityanand Rai, the Lok Janshakti Party’s Ramvilas Paswan and Rashtriya Lok Samta Party’s Upendra Kushwaha.
(With inputs from HT Correspondents in Chandigarh and Mumbai)