Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and the Shiromani Akali Dal in Punjab are already in coalition with the BJP and are supporters of Modi. In Karnataka, B. S. Yeddyurappa would now be finalizing his arrangements with BJP since he has openly indicated his support to Modi. Photo: HT
Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and the Shiromani Akali Dal in Punjab are already in coalition with the BJP and are supporters of Modi. In Karnataka, B. S. Yeddyurappa would now be finalizing his arrangements with BJP since he has openly indicated his support to Modi. Photo: HT

The Narendra Modi factor and emerging alliance scenario for 2014

Modi's strategy would be to expand his reach and escalate controversies on several fronts first before thinking of alliances

Even though the just concluded assembly polls were overwhelmingly in favour of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Narendra Modi’s candidacy for the prime ministership will not get him new alliance partners right away. Brand Modi has, however, gained ground across the country. In fact, some of the apprehensions about Modi have lost their sting.

Are pre-poll alliances as critical now for Modi to forge ahead? I do not think so. One new angle that comes out of this just-concluded campaign is that Modi’s appeal with voters has been direct. The Modi brand was tested in this campaign and BJP has benefited. It is precisely due to such perceptions that local and state parties are very likely to reassess their options for 2014.

In any case, there are only a couple of state parties whose support by way of a pre-poll alliance matters. Of them, Telugu Desam Party’s Chandrababu Naidu has already opened its doors and is waiting for serious talks. Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSR Congress going for a pre-poll understanding is quite unlikely unless Modi magically attracts both. The way the United Progressive Alliance handled the Telangana issue might induce K. Chandrasekhara Rao’s Telangana Rashtra Samithi to review its long-term strategy but only after assessing the Lok Sabha poll results. Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and the Shiromani Akali Dal in Punjab are already in coalition with the BJP and are supporters of Modi. In Karnataka, B. S. Yeddyurappa would now be finalizing his arrangements with BJP since he has openly indicated his support to Modi.

The big question now is between Mamata Banerjee of Trinamool Congress and J.Jayalalithaa of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, who are yet to indicate their stand on an alliance with Modi. They will be cautious in announcing their leanings before the Lok Sabha polls since Modi’s direct appeal with voters could result in BJP scoring more votes even in their states. In any case, one cannot be too sure of the kind of support they will extend to Modi. As far as Nitish Kumar of the Janata Dal (United) in Bihar is concerned, a rapprochement is highly unlikely. Similarly, a pre-poll understanding with Naveen Patnaik of the Biju Janata Dal in Odisha is quite unlikely.

Depending on the number of seats she gets in Uttar Pradesh, a post-poll rapport between Mayawati of the Bahujan Samaj Party and the BJP cannot be ruled out. Mulayam Singh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party, whose base includes Muslims, is unlikely to support Modi in 2014.

Modi’s strategy would be to expand his reach and escalate controversies on several fronts first before thinking of alliances. His evoking the legacy of Sardar Patel is part of the same strategy to network with parties and leaders. His grip and grit in public oratory is already helping him to keep the voters stay tuned.

It is not premature to talk about Modi’s ability to put together a coalition or expand the composition of existing ones. It is more important to note that the media is going all out in amplifying the euphoria about Brand Modi. If he succeeds in bringing around opposing parties in some states to support him as in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra or Tamil Nadu, he could set the pace for a larger coalition.

Modi seems to have realized from the outset that it is better to win the support of newer voters even if it attracts criticism from some party leaders. Creating controversy is a unique part of his calculated poll strategy of opening new vistas and making inroads into electoral politics of the country and co-opting new allies in that process. Would the next level of the 2014 campaign be beyond rhetoric?

N. Bhaskara Rao is a political analyst and founder chairman of the Centre for Media Studies or CMS, a New Delhi-based think tank

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