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Amit Shah makes frantic efforts to save face

Thursday, June 07, 2018
By Bharatkumar Raut

Lok Sabha and State Assembly by-election results came in last Thursday and the debacle of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in most of the constituencies paved way for multi-prone political activities within opposition parties and the ruling side as well. One indication of the mood of the BJP to ensure that its partners don’t jump out of the camp to join the opposition bandwagon is that the party has launched ‘Sampark Abhiyan’ all over and all every level. The Party Chief Amit Shah has taken a lead in the matter and has started meeting supreme leaders of various parties. As a part of the drive Shah called on Shiv Sena Party Chief Udhhav Thackeray at the latter’s residence tomorrow. This development has paved many theories, gossips and grapevine.

On the face of it, the Udhhav-Shah meeting seems to be like a routine one and it is futile to find deep meaning in this development. This is because over the last three decades, Thackeray’s residence Matoshree at Bandra’s Kala Nagar has become a place of political pilgrimage not only to loyal Shiv Sainiks but also to many big-wigs in the political arena. From the time of Atal Behari Vajpayee, Lal Krishna Advani, Sharad Pawar and Socialist leader George Fernandes to  Amit Shah and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, leaders make it a point to call on Matoshri with regular intervals. Thus, ideally Shah's meeting with Uddhav should not make a big ruckus. However, over the past two days, TV channels in Marathi, Hindi and English are giving coverage to this 'event'. What could be the reason?

‘Sampark Abhiyan’
 While I am writing this column, the unduly publicised meeting between the BJP and Sena Supremoes is yet to take place. Perhaps before you read this column you would have read news and various analysis on this meeting. The moot question is, whether this meeting was really a routine and part of the 'Sampark Abhiyan' or one needs to read more in this event. This is because the timing of this meeting is crucial. Apart from failing miserably in the recently held Lok Sabha and Assembly elections, the BJP has also failed to wrest power in Karnataka. What was more significant and eye-catching was the fact that H D Kumaraswamy could gather a battery of senior non-BJP political leaders across the nation for his swearing in as the Karnataka chief minister. The nation saw the photographs of leaders standing together with hand-in-hand and raising slogans of working together to ensure the defeat of the BJP. Uddhav was also invited for the show of opposition unity and strength. But he did not join as he was busy in Palghar by-election campaign. Andhra Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, West Bengal's Mamta Banerjee and Sitaram Yechuri of the CPI(M) were part of the gathering.

Shah was meeting the Sena Party Chief on this backdrop. Thus many eyebrows were raised, and rightly so.

It's not a hidden fact that the BJP and the Sena have strained their relationship over the last four years. Soon after the Sena joined the Fadnavis Government after it was installed in October 2014, Sena leaders have been firing salvos against the BJP in public. Right from Uddhav to the Shakha Pramukh level activist of the Sena have been bad mouthing about the BJP rule in the Centre and also in the state. Strangely, the Sena has been a partner in power at both levels. BJP leaders also have not left any opportunity to see the Sena down. As a result, though the Sena has been the oldest friend of the BJP and has been a part of the Government with it as and when they formed governments, their relationship is extremely strained and can fail at any time.

Considering the fact that the popularity chart of the Modi Government is showing a rapid decline at urban and rural levels all over the country, the think tank of the BJP is feeling the necessity of retaining its old friends, if it cannot make new ones. This is essential to ensure that the party puts up a good show in 2019 Lok Sabha polls. In 2014, the BJP performed extremely well winning 70 seats, leaving the then ruling Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Congress nursing their deep and bleeding wounds. Later it repeated similar performance in the State Assembly elections, when the Party grabbed power from the SP in style. However, since then the party is on a decline. The major pointer was its glaring defeat at Phulpur and Gorakhpur. This verdict pressed a panic button in the BJP Camp. If this was not enough the party recently lost one more Lok Sabha by-election. Along with the sharp decline in the party strength at the Lok Sabha level, the results also made it amply clear that the party would have to slog hard to retain its fort in the UP.

Losing by-elections
The party also lost several other by-elections including Bhandara-Gondia in Maharashtra. It had already lost power that the BJP enjoyed along with the Akali Dal in Punjab followed by a sharp decline in number of seats in Modi-Shah's home state Gujarat. To make the situation worse for the party, Chandrababu Naidu, the sole leader of Telugu Desam snapped its ties with the BJP and recalled its two ministers from the Government. This was a rude shock. Apart from TDP, the Swabhimani Shetkari leader from Maharashtra also declared quitting the NDA.

The overall impact of the situation is that the BJP is now feeling an urgent need to save the NDA. Therefore, Shah went out of the way to conduct the 'Sampark Abhiyan'. Now that Uddhav has already declared his intention to go all alone in the next election, it is yet to be seen as how Shah manages to calm him down and makes him ready to go hand-n-hand with the BJP for the next elections. The fate of the national politics largely depends on Sena's decision.

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