New Delhi: The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), still recovering from the expulsion of Jaswant Singh and infighting within, will have to tackle opposition from erstwhile allies in assembly elections next month in Arunachal Pradesh, Haryana and Maharashtra, apart from taking on traditional political rivals.
Friend turned foe: Former MP Kiren Rijiju, under whose leadership the BJP had made considerable inroads. Ramesh Pathania / Mint
The damage to BJP’s prospects from former partners may be severe, said Bidyut Chakrabarty, professor of political science at Delhi University. The party needs to end its internal differences, he said.
“It’s necessary for the party to put its house in order as no one would be interested to stay aligned with it or help a political force which is in decline due to internal wrangling,” Chakrabarty said.
Rajiv Pratap Rudy, a spokesperson for the BJP, rejected the contention that former partners would erode support for the party in the 13 October polls.
“With them or without them, it can hardly make a difference to the support to the BJP in the upcoming assembly election. The vote base of the party is intact and is irrespective of the ally of the day,” Rudy said.
The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) of Raj Thackeray, an ally of the BJP when he was part of the Shiv Sena, could repeat the damage inflicted in the recent Lok Sabha polls.
Of the 12 seats the MNS contested in the parliamentary elections, the party dented the prospects of the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance candidates in at least nine seats. The BJP-Sena combine could not win even a single seat in Mumbai.
“The damage could be severe as the BJP does not even recognize the effect of forces like the MNS,” Chakrabarty said.
Maharashtra, which has 288 assembly segments, is ruled by an alliance of the Congress party and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
“The MNS will not have any influence, as its presence is only in some urban pockets,” said another party spokesman, Prakash Javadekar. “People are fed up of Congress-NCP rule and they want a change. The BJP-Shiv Sena combine would provide a much-needed alternative.”
Raj Thackeray, along with the late Pramod Mahajan of the BJP, played a key role in the first alliance with the Shiv Sena in 1989. Thackeray severed ties with uncle and Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray in 2006 to form the MNS.
The BJP’s friend-turned-foe in Haryana, ruled by the Congress, is the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) led by former state chief minister Om Prakash Chautala. The alliance with Chautala, a close friend of senior BJP leader L.K. Advani, came under severe criticism on the last day of the recently concluded BJP meeting in Shimla. A day after the conclave, the BJP announced the snapping of ties with the INLD, leaving Chautala red-faced.
The INLD, part of the BJP-led NDA government that lost power in 2004, resumed its alliance with its former partner just before the Lok Sabha polls. The INLD and the BJP failed to win any Lok Sabha seats in Haryana.
Chautala called the snapping of ties as the BJP’s unilateral decision and warned that it would lead to his erstwhile ally suffering defeat in the polls to the 90-member assembly. The BJP’s prospects in Arunachal Pradesh may be marred by Kiren Rijiju, former party MP and its chosen northeastern face until last month.
“In places like Arunachal Pradesh, people vote for your performance and not for your party. With me in the BJP, the development and stability of the state would have suffered and, hence, (I) took the conscious decision to join the Congress last month,” said Rijiju, who unsuccessfully contested the Lok Sabha polls as a BJP candidate. The BJP termed his change of party as a result of the “lure of money and power”.
Rijiju, along with Tapir Gaon, had represented the Arunachal West and Arunachal East constituencies previously. Under his leadership, the BJP had made considerable inroads.
“The BJP was growing but the people are apprehensive of the party’s ideology, which could have been a roadblock for development. I stand for the people of Arunachal Pradesh today and for a stable Congress government,” Rijiju said.