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Sushma no bar for merger

New Delhi, March 7: The BJP appears set to firm up its merger with the BSR Congress in Karnataka, headed by a scam-stung leader, despite the objections raised by Lok Sabha Opposition leader Sushma Swaraj.

Sushma and L.K. Advani reiterated their reservations to party president Rajnath Singh when they met him today.

Karnataka BJP leaders stressed they “very much” want the merger to be formalised “at the earliest” and said some of them would be in the national capital tomorrow to speak to Sushma and try and “convince” her.

BJP sources said the leaders were going through the same rituals of “speaking over and over again” with Sushma, as they had when she and Advani had put their foot down on B.S. Yeddyurappa’s re-entry. If she remained “unmoved”, they would go ahead and announce the merger.

Underlying the strategy to rope in ostensibly “marginal” players like the BSR Congress is the view that although several states may be “awash in the Modi wave”, the BJP would have to focus on each and every Lok Sabha seat to “maximise” its “returns” from the supposed wave.

“It is a tight situation. More than anyone else, Modi realised that this wave cannot be taken for granted, the elections are not going to be a cakewalk for him. To him, the crucial figure to be achieved is 200 and above. If the BJP is the single largest party but stuck at 170 or 180, then the field becomes wide open for a joust to claim the leadership sweepstakes.

“Sushma is waiting in the wings, Rajnath fancies himself as a liberal and accommodating leader in the Vajpayee mould while Advani has not ruled himself out. Modi’s safety net is something like 220, a figure Vajpayee never dreamt of at the height of his popularity,” a source said.

Therefore, closer to the polls, Modi and the BJP have changed tack and embarked on two tactics: stitching alliances with smaller parties with a vote share not to be sniffed at and cherry-picking candidates from other parties who left in search of greener pastures or to be rewarded with tickets.

Apart from the BSR Congress and the Lok Janshakti Party, the BJP is negotiating with the DMDK, PMK and the MDMK in Tamil Nadu, the TDP in Andhra Pradesh and the Apna Dal in Uttar Pradesh.

It has or is roping in “winnable” deserters from other parties like D. Purandeshwari and Jagdambika Pal of the Congress. In many places, the BJP is facing a candidates’ crunch.