Amit Shah's Gathbandhan Game Is On Point. Congress, Please Note

Published: March 07, 2019 13:52 IST
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Amit Shah is the most successful BJP president in history if you simply go by his electoral track record. Shah is equally known for his arrogance. Yet Shah, whose cold demeanour and taxing demands make even senior BJP leaders shiver, ate humble pie with Uddhav Thackeray and Nitish Kumar when it came to the delicate job of alliance negotiations.

Consider this. The BJP won 22 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar in 2014. Yet to keep the alliance with Janata Dal United intact, Shah - the most hard-nosed bargainer in politics today - settled for 17 seats to contest in the national election now barely weeks away.

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Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar with BJP president Amit Shah

Just contrast this with the Congress party, which finally decided to go solo in Delhi, rejecting an alliance with newbie AAP. The Congress had won zero seats out of 7 in Delhi. The BJP is now gloating that it has all seven seats in the bag.

Uddhav Thackeray, the Shiv Sena chief, has made no secret of his personal dislike for the Narendra Modi and Amit Shah duo, attacking them repeatedly and taking nasty, personal jibes similar to the kind of name-calling Arvind Kejriwal used to do with the Congress.

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The Shiv Sena and the BJP will contest the Lok Sabha and the assembly polls together

Shah, instead of sulking, ensured that he had the otherwise out-of-favour Nitin Gadkari become the chief negotiator with Thackeray.

Gadkari, using Hindi film metaphors and Marathi, brought Thackeray around. Even Thackeray's outrageous demand that his son Aditya Thackeray, who has zero administrative experience, be made Chief Minister, was taken patiently by the BJP. Maharashtra with 48 Lok Sabha seats is the second bellwether after 80-seat Uttar Pradesh. In 2014 the BJP contested 24 seats and the Sena 20. At the height of the Modi wave the BJP won 23 seats and the Sena 18.

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BJP chief Amit Shah with PM Narendra Modi (File photo)

Thackeray wanted a reset of the seat-share and an assurance that the Chief Minister would be from the Sena to ensure its continued big brother status. After tense negotiations that even involved Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis - he was forced to watch as his job was bartered away - the deal was that the BJP would contest 25 seats and the Sena 23. On the contentious chief ministerial post, Shah gave Thackeray a personal assurance. The BJP conceded that the assembly polls would be held with the general elections and the two would fight in alliance on an equal number of seats.

Even after the alliance Thackeray wanted proof of India's air strike in Balakot. The BJP has maintained a diplomatic silence.

Even in Uttar Pradesh Shah has gone out his way to ease negotiations with small parties like the Apna Dal. To ensure disarray in the powerful rival camp in UP, Shah is propping up Shivpal Yadav (Akhilesh Yadav's estranged uncle) and Amar Singh (ex-Samajwadi Party) to eat into the Samajwadi Party base.

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President of Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (PSP) Shivpal Singh Yadav

In his will for power Shah has stooped to conquer while the opposition remains the gang that could not shoot straight.

While Modi calls rival alliances "mahamilavat (tainted)", both he and Shah have assiduously cultivated allies for the NDA.

Modi has been calling the Akali Dal Badal family on a near-weekly basis. Last week when Akali chief Parkash Singh Badal was unwell, he was surprised by a solicitous call from the Prime Minister.

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Akali chief Parkash Singh Badal with PM Modi (File photo)

Piyush Goyal was tasked by Shah to get the AIADMK - PMK combine on board for the BJP to have a crack at Tamil Nadu, which has been steadfast in its rejection of the party. Goyal was chosen because of his ease with English and he made innumerable trips to Chennai to win them over.

Shah has told his team that "no insult is permanent in politics - only winning is", as he firms up his NDA contingent.

(Swati Chaturvedi is an author and a journalist who has worked with The Indian Express, The Statesman and The Hindustan Times.)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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