The flurry of activity in BJP in preparation for assembly elections to Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Assam is the new normal in Indian politics. BJP’s programmatic clarity is in sharp contrast to the sedate Congress, yet to finalise a deal with CPM in Bengal or the contours of a proposed “grand” secular alliance in Assam. Meanwhile in Assam, BJP has trumped anti-incumbency in the Bodoland Territorial Council elections, dumped BPF and picked another Bodo party UPPL as its ally.
BJP has a realistic chance of upsetting TMC after winning 18 of Bengal’s 42 Lok Sabha seats in 2019. It has sowed confusion in TMC by wooing influential netas like Suvendu Adhikari and is flagging the rising political violence as sign of TMC’s loosening grip. A resource rich BJP campaign also negates doughty chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s advantage of controlling the state administration. Despite BJP’s distant third place in Kerala, Muslim League’s growing clout in the Congress-led UDF and graft allegations rocking the CPM-led LDF government present opportunities for the party to chip away. A BJP outreach to Christian religious leaders, who have long backed UDF, is afoot.
TN presents BJP its greatest challenge. With no organic growth in sight, the strategy of co-opting AIADMK hasn’t worked exactly to plan. Vetrivel Yatra – BJP’s springboard for 2021 – was torpedoed by ally AIADMK itself. After NDA’s poor 2019 TN showing, AIADMK’s seat allocation to BJP for assembly polls may not be similarly generous. Aligning with Rajinikanth’s untested political outfit is risky. Persisting with AIADMK, whose chief minister EK Palaniswami has surprised everyone by keeping both DMK and BJP at bay while overcoming the post-Jayalalithaa turbulence, could be BJP’s best bet.
BJP’s nationwide thrust brushes aside apparent contradictions. Its leaders refute nationwide NRC in Bengal and promise a new “error-free” Assam NRC. They tout CAA in Bengal but skip mention in Assam. The governance record in Assam has been a mixed bag. There are achievements like the Bodo peace accord even as the latest NFHS reveals an eye-popping rise in proportion of anaemic children. BJP’s central power acts as a magnet drawing in disparate groups, allies and states while deftly skirting the governance question. With Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Telangana too witnessing BJP’s quest to fill spaces vacated by Congress and local parties, the great centripetal churn in Indian politics courtesy BJP shows no sign of slowing down.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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