The Telegraph
Sunday , May 18 , 2014
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Regional trio possible allies

- NDA badly needs friends in Upper House to pass bills

Three regional outposts have stopped the Modi wave but the BJP believes the emergence of Jayalalithaa, Mamata Banerjee and Naveen Patnaik as strong, independent blocks has opened up the prospect for expanding its own political sphere on two planks: federalism and a loose but large “non-Congress” coalition.

Far from feeling nettled by the potential presence of these regional entities in Parliament, the BJP saw a political opportunity for itself in the fact that the Congress could be overshadowed by these satraps who held their own against Modi in their territories.

“What is the history of these parties? They were formed on anti-Congressism. Their leaders have seldom done business with the Congress. Modiji has had excellent relations with Jayalalithaa and a working arrangement with Patnaik. With Didi, no doubt there were bitter exchanges during the elections but that’s part of the game,” a BJP official said.

In the UPA’s tenure, when a meeting of the National Development Council (NDC) was convened, on a few occasions, Modi, Patnaik and Jayalalithaa went into a huddle on the sidelines to draw up a common strategy to oppose the National Counter Terrorism Centre. But it was emphasised that no “deeper” political meaning should be read in such interactions.

In reaching out to the AIADMK, Trinamul and the BJD in the near future, sources said a calculation was that the BJP required to shore up its support in the Rajya Sabha to push important bills through. The NDA is in a minority in the Upper House.

That apart, sources said that despite being decimated, the Congress could work on these parties and formulate joint floor tactics against the NDA to embarrass the coalition in Parliament.

Sources said Modi’s outreach to Mamata and Patnaik would be based on his “Look East” policy, East denoting Bengal, Odisha and Bihar.

“He wants the country’s overall poverty index to reflect lower poverty figures. His point is growth figures are meaningless unless poverty levels are brought down. This cannot be achieved unless the imbalance in the eastern states is set right. Modi himself indicated again and again in his speeches that he is ready to work in cohesion with Mamataji. If the plank is poverty and growth, what problems can she possibly have?” a general secretary asked.

Of the eastern leaders, Modi could have issues only with Nitish Kumar, the Bihar chief minister who snapped his long relationship with the BJP because he refused to brook Modi as the PM candidate.

A Bihar BJP leader, however, admitted that Modi will have to “tread with care” in the state.

“We have done well in Bihar. We have to sustain the momentum until the next Assembly elections (due in 2015). If we needle Nitish over-much, he could go on an offensive to gain sympathy and use the ‘Bihar pride’ card. The ideal approach would be to sanction funds and have the Centre monitor projects on infrastructure, particularly roads, health care and industrial development without treading on Nitish’s toes,” he said.

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