New Delhi: The BJP has used the elections to the Rajya Sabha deputy chairman’s post as a confidence-building measure to reach-out to wary allies and test the index of opposition unity in the build-up to the bigger battle in 2019. In supporting Nitish Kumar’s nomine for the post, BJP has sought to assuage smaller alliance partners who have worked in the coalition under the brute majority of the leading partner. All other the coalition governments in the last three decades have been dependent on smaller partners. But not the incumbent one. BJP’s concession to Nitish Kumar is borne both out of compulsion and foresight. It’s an assurance of sorts for present and potential allies.
The BJP is the single-largest party in the Upper House. However, it did not have numbers to win the election on its own strength. In nominating Harivansh, the BJP made it easier for non-aligned regional parties to make a decisive choice. So because of regional compulsions, if Naveen Patnaik would have found it difficult to support a BJP MP, he would have no such hesitation in supporting a JD(U) nominee. The same goes for Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao. With BJD and TRS on board, the government was assured of numbers. The other regional party which could have turned the applecart was the AIADMK. But the party post Jayalalithaa’s death has seldom taken a stand to the discomfiture of the Modi government.
Even the Shiv Sena, which abstained in the no-trust motion on Modi government, had to fall in line. This in many ways also underscores Sena’s dilemma in dealing with the BJP both at the Centre and in Maharashtra. The Rajya Sabha deputy chairman elections in many ways also delineates who stands where in the next general elections if 2019 would be a bipolar election. That the country’s polity has taken a decisive turn is also evident from the fact that it would perhaps be one of those rare election at any level when Telugu Desam Party (TDP) has supported a Congress nominee. The party which has its foundations laid on the very concept of anti-Congress-ism now finds the BJP as its main challenger. The opposition game plan was nipped the moment Naveen Patnaik told NCP leaders of having committed support to JD(U) nominee. Precisely the reason why Sharad Pawar decided not to field party MP Vandana Chavan as joint opposition candidate.
The AAP’s refusal to back the Congress nominee shows its refusal to accommodate or even acknowledge Arvind Kejriwal in the opposition ranks. Clearly short of numbers, it was finally left to the Congress to field a candidate for a token contest.