Girding for a polarised election, BJP bets on small parties too

At the NDA meeting in New Delhi, at least nine of the 38 alliance partners did not contest the 2019 election, while 16 do not have a single MP

Updated - September 27, 2023 11:33 am IST

Published - July 19, 2023 08:40 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Union Minister Amit Shah with Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party leader Om Prakash Rajbhar during the NDA meeting in New Delhi on July 18, 2023. The BJP wants to shore up its position in eastern Uttar Pradesh by tying up with the SBSP.

Union Minister Amit Shah with Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party leader Om Prakash Rajbhar during the NDA meeting in New Delhi on July 18, 2023. The BJP wants to shore up its position in eastern Uttar Pradesh by tying up with the SBSP. | Photo Credit: PTI

The meeting of the National Democratic Alliance, with many of its 38 constituent parties having just one or no MP, on Tuesday might have looked like an exercise to trump the Indian National Developmental, Inclusive Alliance (INDIA), the Opposition grouping that took concrete shape in Bengaluru the same day.

But BJP leaders say the prospect of a heavily polarised Lok Sabha election in 2024 means every vote counts and the party will need the support of even entities with a smaller footprint.

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At the NDA meeting in New Delhi, at least nine of the 38 alliance partners did not contest the 2019 election, while 16 do not have a single MP. Of the 45% vote share that the NDA got in 2019, a figure raised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the meeting, the BJP scored 37%, while all others put together could not even hit double digits. And yet, BJP leaders say their allies are particularly important in Bihar, Maharashtra, and Uttar Pradesh.

In Bihar and Maharashtra, the BJP will be going into the 2024 election without its 2019 allies. In Bihar, the party will have to deal with the formidable arithmetic of the Mahagatbandhan, or grand alliance.

“In 2019, Jitan Ram Majhi’s Hindustan Awam Morcha got 2.4% of the vote in the State, Upendra Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samata Party 3.6%, and the Ram Vilas Paswan-led Lok Janshakti Party 6%. The election will be highly polarised on caste lines, and having any party in the middle as a vote cutter will hurt our prospects. While this combination did not work in the 2015 Assembly election, the scenario in 2024, with Nitish Kumar out, we feel it will make a difference,” a source said.

Some relief

In Maharashtra, the splitting of the Shiv Sena and the Nationalist Congress Party will, BJP leaders say, provide some relief from the consolidation against the BJP by the Maha Vikas Aghadi.

In Uttar Pradesh, NDA partner Apna Dal (Sonelal) with 1.2% of the vote got two seats, while the NISHAD party managed one seat, because it was in alliance with the BJP in 2019. In the 2022 Assembly election, the NISHAD party had a seat adjustment of 10 seats of which it won six. The party polled less than 1% of the vote.

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The BJP wants to shore up its position in eastern Uttar Pradesh by tying up with the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party.

Most of these parties have influence over certain sections of society and in some districts, which can mean the difference between winning and losing there. “The two big alliances are going to ensure that this election will be highly polarised, therefore even small vote percentages are crucial,” said a BJP leader.

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