On Tuesday, when the BJP sealed the alliance deal in deep South — Tamil Nadu and Puducherry after tense negotiations, it followed the plan to concentrate on South and states where it is still a new factor, not having been tested and tried enough as in the Hindi heartland states. In the latter belt, coalition of caste parties riding the plank of secularism could give it a run for its money.
At a time the party faces a tough electoral scenario in Northern India, it looks up to South India with great anticipation. In both Andhra and Telangana, while BJP is banking on pre-poll alliance with smaller parties and post-poll arrangement with YSR Congress and TRS, in Kerala it is hopeful of a windfall gain from the Hindutva agitation on Sabarimala issue. Put together these five southern states — Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala send 129 members to Lok Sabha.
Wooing old and new
BJP hopes to gain considerably from the alliance in Maharashtra, which borders with two southern states Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. The saffron party has high hopes from Tamil Nadu and is seriously exploring options in Andhra Pradesh, where it had won two Lok Sabha seats in 2014 when it had fought polls in alliance with Chandrababu Naidu's TDP. The TDP is now in the Opposition camp. BJP has also stooped to conquer recalcitrant old allies like Shiv Sena and aggressively wooed new allies like AIADMK.
Maharashtra is the second state after Bihar where BJP made considerable concessions to keep the coalition intact. Putting acrimony behind, BJP on Monday sealed an alliance with Shiv Sena, which has never spared an opportunity to train guns on Modi government, including on the recent terror strikes.
BJP, which is ruling the state as well as the Centre, will contest 25 out of 48 Lok Sabha seats, leaving 23 to Shiv Sena to take on the Congress- NCP alliance.
On Monday, soon after Amit Shah flanked by Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav announce the seat-sharing, Shah drove to Thackeray's ancestral residence Matoshree.
Earlier, while finalising Bihar alliance also, Shah had flown to Bihar capital Patna to seal the seat sharing deal under which BJP and JDU agreed to contest an equal number of seats (17 each). JDU had won just two Lok Sabha seats in 2014 on its own, while BJP-led NDA had bagged 31 of 40 Lok Sabha seats, with BJP alone winning 22. BJP also agreed to part with 6 LS seats for Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP despite internal feedback that Paswan’s party was not going so strong now.
BJP has shifted focus on coalition even as the party's top leaders have repeatedly pitched for a “majority government” and set a target of crossing 282 Lok Sabha seats it had won in 2014. None other than Prime Minister Modi has off late been repeatedly talking about the successful coalition governments run by NDA’s first Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
As of now strong alliances on both sides seem face to face in Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Bihar. In UP, which has a maximum of 80 Lok Sabha seats out of which NDA had won 72 in last LS polls, BJP is hoping for a triangular contest after the entry of Priyanka Gandhi and SP-BSP-RLD keeping Congress out of the alliance.