Winston Churchill famously said that “a politician needs the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month and next year” and Prime Minister, Narendra Modi and President of Bharatiya Janta Party, Amit Shah appear to be past masters in this art. Call it Karnataka effect or recent reversals in bye-polls, Modi and Shah are busy these days mending fences with allies and party veterans. Apparently, the BJP never felt the need to visit these senior leaders in view of saffron triumph in state after state. However, coming together of opposition parties leading to BJP reversal in bye-polls has made the party think that Modi magic alone may not be enough to regenerate the 2014 euphoria in 2019.
A recent editorial in the Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamna, insisting that the Sena would fight the coming elections alone indicated that all was not well with the alliance partners. Uddhav Thackeray must be under pressure to signal that he is as powerful as his father Bal Thackeray. It was in such a scenario that Shah, an astute politician that he is, called on Shiv Sena Chief, Uddhav Thackeray in Mumbai, followed by a visit to Shiromani Akali Dal Patron, Parkash Singh Badal and his son Sukhbir Singh Badal in Chandigarh. With the spectre of opposition unity looming large, Shah is reaching out to all constituents of National Democratic Alliance. Next on agenda is improving ties with Bihar CM, Nitish Kumar in view of demands of a special category status emanating from Bihar.
PM Modi too is on a reconciliation mission and party veteran and former Deputy PM LK Advani and other estranged party elders are being approached. The antipathy to the Congress, raising up of corruption issues that unconditionally brought allies to the NDA fold in 2014, may not work in 2019. The Congress’ readiness to take a backseat in Karnataka and the Bahujan Samaj Party and Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh forging an alliance have brought pressure on the BJP to be accommodating to its allies. However, the ball game may be different for BJP in South as it is without a partner in Karnataka and has strained relations with the Telugu Desam Party in Andhra Pradesh. The alliance with People’s Democratic Party in Jammu and Kashmir also requires a greater flexibility. Then there is lack of clarity for a possible alliance in Haryana too. The BJP will have to keep all its allies together by recalibrating its relationships. The positive sign for BJP is that the likes of JD(U), Shiv Sena and Akali Dal are in no position to cross over to a Congress-led United Progressive Alliance. Shah, architect of BJP’s 2014 victory has been quick to rebuild bridges and elicit a positive response from its constituents making future electoral battles interesting.