What Price Must BJP Pay To Keep Kingmakers JDU, TDP On Board

Both Nitish Kumar's JDU and N Chandrababu Naidu's TDP have stressed that they will stay with the NDA.

Nitish Kumar and N Chandrababu Naidu have emerged kingmakers in this election

New Delhi:

A day after Lok Sabha election results defied exit polls and denied a clear majority to the incumbent BJP, its allies, and now kingmakers, JDU's Nitish Kumar and TDP's N Chandrababu Naidu have reached Delhi for an NDA meeting this evening that will decide on the way forward.

Amid the buzz that the INDIA Opposition bloc, which has sprung a surprise by winning 232 seats, will try to reach out to Mr Kumar and Mr Naidu, both JDU and TDP have stressed that they will stay with the NDA.

The BJP has won 240 Lok Sabha seats -- 32 short of the majority mark. TDP and JDU together hold 28 seats and along with BJP's other allies, NDA will be past the magic figure.

But Mr Naidu and Mr Kumar -- both Coalition-era veterans -- are skilled in the art of bargaining and know how to make their support count. If the BJP crossed the majority mark on its own, allies would have to be happy with what they got, but the numbers have opened a window of opportunity and the veterans won't miss it.

While JDU has hinted what it may ask for, TDP has been tight-lipped.

Speaking to NDTV, senior JDU leader KC Tyagi said the party will consider joining the government "if an invitation is extended".

"We expect the new government to consider giving special category status to Bihar and conduct a nationwide caste census."

Mr Tyagi, however, clarified that these are not conditions for JDU's support to NDA. "Our support is unconditional. But the unemployment in Bihar will not end till Bihar gets special status. So, keeping in mind the support NDA has received from Bihar, we hope there will be an initiative to give Bihar special status," he said.

Interestingly, caste census has been one of the key issues raised by the INDIA Opposition bloc in the run-up to this election. Ahead of Nitish Kumar's latest flip-flop, his coalition government with RJD and Congress had also conducted a caste survey in Bihar. "Narendra Modi has never opposed a nationwide caste census. Time demands it," Mr Tyagi stressed.

As for Mr Naidu, there is little clarity on what he may demand from the BJP leadership. TDP sources suggest that the party may ask for plum ministries at the Centre. A preferential status for Andhra Pradesh is another key issue that may come up in the negotiations. In fact, it was a dispute over a special status demand that had prompted Mr Naidu to part ways with the BJP in 2016.

For the TDP chief, who has returned to power in Andhra Pradesh with a thumping win, the task is cut out. The massive mandate for his party has come on a promise to rebuild the state and to develop a capital city. Mr Naidu, often referred to as the first CEO Chief Minister for his record of promoting ease of business and developing cities, has to ensure he delivers on his promises. More so to secure his son Nara Lokesh's political future.

For now, both the TDP and JDU stress that they are firmly with NDA, but when the two kingmakers are N Chandrababu Naidu and Nitish Kumar, no possibility can be ruled out.