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Wednesday, Sep 18, 2019

BJP's victory tempts opposition leaders to switch loyalty

Opposition politicians looking for a fresh lease of public life seem keen to join the BJP, particularly after the party’s spectacular performance in the assembly polls in UP and Uttarakhand.

india Updated: Mar 30, 2017 10:42 IST
Kumar Uttam
Kumar Uttam
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
BJP chief Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the swearing-in ceremony of Uttar Pradesh chief minister Adityanath.
BJP chief Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the swearing-in ceremony of Uttar Pradesh chief minister Adityanath. (HT Photo)


After its spectacular show in the last round of assembly elections, the BJP is learnt to be on a fishing expedition yet again-- this time in Maharashtra-- to catch more disgruntled elements from opposition camps. There is now speculation about Shiv Sainik-turned-Congressman Narayan Rane’s dalliance with the BJP. Although his son Nitesh has scotched it, BJP sources in Delhi do not deny their interest in the Konkan strongman.

The ruling party at the Centre is becoming a haven for politicians who are on the lookout for greener pastures, the latest being Aam Admi Party MLA Ved Prakash who switched his loyalty to the BJP last week, a month before the municipal elections in the national capital. SM Krishna, senior Congress leader and former chief minister of Karnataka, also joined the party last week.

At the BJP’s parliamentary party meeting on Tuesday, parliamentary affairs minister Ananth Kumar pointed out to MPs that senior Congress leader MV Rajasekharan had written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, praising his leadership and it was an endorsement of his popularity.

Political analysts might be a little befuddled by the BJP’s strategy to bring in ‘spent forces’ from other parties but BJP strategists see it differently.

Krishna’s entry, for instance, is expected to send a message to dominant Vokkaliga community in Karnataka that will go to polls next year. With B S Yeddyurappa, a Lingayat, holding the reins of the BJP in Bangalore, the BJP has made conciliatory overtures to the rival Vokkaliga community whose loyalty is broadly divided between the JD(S) of HD Deve Gowda and the Congress. A similar assessment drove the party to flirt with veteran Congressman and former UP and Uttarakhand chief minister ND Tiwari. Brahmin leader Tiwari’s well-publicized meeting with BJP president Amit Shah at the party headquarters in Delhi ahead of Uttarakhand elections did send a signal to the community even though he no longer enjoyed the clout among them.

Apart from these palpable-- though not measurable-- gains, such spent forces help the BJP create a buzz about disintegration in the opposition camp. “Lead me, follow me or get out of my way”: a union minister quoted this remark by 1992 US presidential candidate Ross Perot to a young Congress leader when the latter complained to him about the current state of leadership in the party. “You should remind Rahul what Perot said. Till he is there at the top, he won’t allow others to grow,” the minister said, explaining in his inimitable style how desertions in the Congress camp help the BJP.

Eighty four-year-old Krishna’s entry helps the BJP to drive home the point that even a trusted aide of the Nehru-Gandhi family has lost faith in the Congress. “If someone like Krishna can’t trust the Congress, how can the electorate?” a BJP office bearer in Delhi said.

Defection from the Congress and other parties helped the BJP in UP, Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh. The gambit has paid electoral dividends to the party. What might tempt potential defectors is the way the BJP has rewarded those who switched their loyalty. Five ‘turncoats’ got ministerial berths in the BJP government in Uttarakhand. Four, including former UP Congress chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi, got Cabinet berths in Adityanath Yogi Cabinet in UP.

Opposition parties and critics might sneer at the BJP for this strategy, but the saffron party won’t mind fishing in troubled waters as long as it remains a winning formula.  

First Published: Mar 30, 2017 09:07 IST