The Telegraph
Saturday , May 10 , 2014
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BJP open to new allies: Shah

Varanasi, May 9: Narendra Modi’s right-hand man Amit Shah today said the BJP did not believe in “political untouchability” and was willing to take the support of any party that wanted to join hands with it for “development”.

The comments, in reaction to BSP chief Mayawati ruling out support to a possible Modi government, caused some confusion in the BJP. Just minutes earlier, Shah had claimed that the NDA would “comfortably” cross the halfway mark of 272 in Parliament and perhaps touch 300.

At the news conference, Shah refused to elaborate on his answer but later an aide denied it was an admission of fear of failure to reach the half-way mark, which would force the BJP to prospect for new allies.

“He meant that if the other parties were willing to be part of Modi’s project for the country’s overall development without discrimination, they would be more than welcome,” Shah’s aide said.

Mayawati had earlier told a news conference, perhaps with an eye on the Muslim votes in the 18 Uttar Pradesh seats that go to polls on Monday, that she would not team with the BJP after the elections. “No party talks about taking support of any other party unless it is unsure of its victory,” she added.

Yesterday, in a television interview, Modi had kept the door open for future alliances with everyone, including Mayawati and Mamata Banerjee with whom he has fought a bitter election battle.

Asked whether he could reach out to Mamata, Mayawati and Jayalalithaa, if needed, to form the government, Modi told Times Now: “Running a country may be a number game but it also means taking everyone together…. They (the parties) may have differing ideologies but everyone wants to work for the country.”

Jayalalithaa’s attacks on Modi during the campaign had surprised many because earlier she gave an impression that the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate was an ally she could rely upon. However, once the BJP cobbled a viable alliance of the smaller entities of Tamil Nadu, with their specific social bases, the AIADMK chief perhaps felt the new front might do better than she had expected.

Even if the BJP were to get 300 seats, every MP from every party would be important to him, Modi said. But he snapped after persistent questions on who he was looking at as prospective allies.

“I will tell you, don’t waste your time in finding allies. You have already asked me six questions related to this. I have explained everything clearly that BJP is winning with a clear majority… I have already said this that any MP belonging to any political party and from any part of the country, even if it’s an independent MP, for me he is the representative of 125 crore Indians…. I have said this 50 times now. If you don’t understand tell someone to translate it for you,” he said.

Some in the BJP sounded nervous at the prospect of number-crunching after May 16 in case the BJP was left with 180 seats or a little more. Sources said that was the scenario Modi “dreaded” because a considerable shortfall would open the joust for the top job among the BJP’s other contenders, who have always believed they are more qualified than Modi to manage the complexities of coalition politics.

Asked by Times Now if he was ready to do business even with those whom he has attacked during the campaign, Modi said: “Politics isn’t conducted on the basis of what is said in the course of election campaigns.…”

BJP sources claimed his separation of election rhetoric from the actual business of conducting governance was meant to assure the Opposition he would not be partisan towards the non-BJP ruled states.

Modi’s consensus-building endeavour was first evident in Gujarat after he took over as chief minister. He launched the “samras” scheme under which a village “sarpanch” (headman) is chosen through consensus that is attained by offering a village financial incentives to adopt the scheme. The move has been criticised by rights activists as “undemocratic and corrupt”.