March 10, 2009 8:56:47 am
Alliance. The Biju Janata Dal has been in a seat-sharing alliance with the BJP in Orissa for 11 years now; and the alliances longevity resulted from both the BJDs anti-Congressism and its controversy-free existence. Some sections of the BJP have chosen to read Patnaiks decision over the weekend as betrayal,and strangely reacted to the development by calling for presidents rule even before a test of strength on the floor of the House could be scheduled. For the BJP,the loss of the BJD could be acute. There is not just the fact of the 21 Lok Sabha seats up for grabs in Orissa,a state believed to retain much of the pro-incumbent sentiment that returned the BJD-BJP coalition to power in the assembly elections held together with the 2004 general election. Patnaiks exit means more than that: the loss of a longstanding ally could affect the cohesiveness of its alliance just weeks before polling begins.
It is in this context that the BJP should inquire why its having such a rough ride keeping its allies. In Maharashtra,another of its longer-standing allies,the Shiv Sena,has kept the BJP on notice during seat-sharing talks. Relations have been especially clouded in recent days by the Shiv Senas indication that it would not oppose Sharad Pawars candidature for prime ministership,were the results to be so configured to give him a viable bid. In Tamil Nadu,another state that could decide the difference between competing national alliances,the BJP is in the odd position of going it virtually alone in these elections. Odd,because just five years ago it was in the amazing position of having its pick of the DMK and the AIADMK; its choice then was which of the two to discard.
Patnaik is said to have been in a rethink since the Kandhamal
violence. For now,he says his decision is based on winnability; the BJP,according to him,was not agreeable to record its decline in the seat-sharing specifics. Correct or not,that is a perception that political parties are expected to counter robustly. Some of that has to do with numbers,but a lot is also founded on programmes for governance.
Because an election of disaggregated state verdicts puts national parties at a disadvantage,that disadvantage is reversed only by articulating a national agenda made of federal specifics. The BJP should ask whether many of its problems derive from this absence.
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