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Seema Mustafa | 26 DECEMBER, 2014

Regional Parties Fight Back to Contain BJP

The regional parties push back against the BJP


NEW DELHI: The Bharatiya Janata Party’ s rise is being stemmed not by the Congress---that is passing from one low to the other---but by the regional parties that are clearly on the ascendant.

Despite the virulent and hard campaign being run by the BJP, with the full support and participation of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and its formidable front organisations like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the regional parties in the states are giving a stiff resistance. The BJP in the states that have gone to the polls has not been able to improve upon its Lok Sabha performance, and in fact has gone down substantially in Jammu and Kashmir and Jharkhand.

Despite the bugles, the BJP has moved down the ladder in both the states conceding space to the regional parties. In Jammu and Kashmir it was confined to Jammu alone, losing segments in Ladakh where it had won in the parliamentary elections, and not being allowed to open its account in Kashmir Valley. The Peoples Democratic Party emerged as the single largest, while the National Conference that had been written off by most outside the state remains in the picture with 15 Assembly seats. It has now offered to ally with the PDP, if the latter so wants, to help it form the government in Jammu and Kashmir.

In Jharkhand too the BJP has lost nearly 20 Assembly segments which it had been part of its Lok Sabha kitty. And it fell short of the majority 41 seats mark, being able to form the government only with the help of the smaller All Jharkhand Students Union that won five seats. Significantly the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha that the Congress party in its usual lack of wisdom shunned, won 19 seats and denied the BJP the full majority it was hoping for. This despite pulling all punches, and an aggressive campaign by the BJP in the state.

Significantly again, while the Congress remains directionless, the regional players have started coming together in states facing elections over the next couple of years. The Aam Aadmi Party is picking up in Delhi which is expected to go to the polls in February next year, and away from the media spotlights, is clearly gaining some of the lost ground in the state. It has started the election campaign, and this time around is not invoking the same hostility as it did in the last Assembly polls from the Opposition camp. In fact several leaders spoken to actually wished AAP well, as it is clearly the only party in any position to challenge the BJP in Delhi. The Congress has no presence in the state at all, with now even former chief minister Sheila Dixit retired from politics.

Bihar also faces the elections next year and in preparation the erstwhile Janata Dal breakaway groups and leaders have come together in rare unity. The Janata Dal (U), Janata Dal(S), Rashtriya Janata Dal, Samajwadi party and others have all decided to fight the elections together, in support of each other, and merge soon into one national party that will be led by Mulayam Singh Yadav. The campaign in a sense began with a rally addressed by Mulayam Singh, Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav in Delhi where the three led a concerted attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government.

These regional constituents are clear that they will work together to “save” both Bihar and Uttar Pradesh---that goes to the polls in 2016----from the BJP. Differences and ego’s have given way to the challenge posed to their very existence in the states, and as JD(U)’sKC Tyagi told The Citizen, “the fight back has begun.”

The regional parties along with the Congress party led a major attack on the government in both Houses of Parliament on the issue of conversions and communalism. This led to disruptions and the government was unable to introduce the controversial Insurance Bill in the Upper House despite repeated efforts. It has had to suffer the ignominy of going down the Ordinance route even though it is in power, with a majority in the Lok Sabha.

Similarly the BJP is facing resistance from all states where the regional parties are in power. The first in fact came from Tamil Nadu when AIADMK leader Jayalalitha was still chief minister and had not been removed by an order of the court. There were large scale protests over the visit of Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapakse, preventing PM Modi from publicly pushing the friendship that both had recognised and wished to take forward. More recently the one man party led by Vaiko withdrew from the NDA government on the Tamil issue in what is the beginning of the disintegration of the conglomerate that the BJP had got together in support for the Lok Sabha elections.

The Biju Janata Dal has been relatively quiet, with Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik seemingly reluctant to cross swords with the BJP at this juncture. This is largely because he is being left alone in the state, for the moment at least, after holding the state against the BJP during the Lok Sabha elections. Despite being on the ascendant the BJP was not able to make deep inroads into Odisha as a result.

In West Bengal, chief minister Mamata Banerjee refuses to be cowed down and is waging a war against the BJP even as it gain ground in the state.The Trinamool Congress with 33 MPs in Parliament was very active, with daily protests against the government both within and outside the House. For Banerjee it has become a fight to the finish as the BJP is determined now to move into West Bengal without an alliance with her. Instead the CBI is hounding the Trinamool Congress on the Sarada scam, leading to further heartburn and protests by the ruling party in the state.

The Akali Dal, although in the NDA, is straining at the leash according to sources. And relations with the BJP are, to put it mildly, strained. The Assembly elections over the next couple of years----with Delhi and Bihar to start with----will be very interesting and crucial.

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