Amit Shah's Bihar visit: Will BJP show it has the whip hand in alliance?


The BJP has embarked on a journey to placate its allies. However, the troubling question of who will play the big brother in states where the saffron party has alliances still remains unanswered. When party chief Amit Shah travels to Patna on Thursday, this question will be on everyone’s mind.

Seat sharing is often the most practical means of deciding the question of seniority. Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal (United) has already said it will play the big brother in the state. The issue will be debated when Shah and Nitish Kumar would meet twice on the same day.

However, optics will be on full display when Shah lands in Patna on Thursday. After his trademark show of strength in the form of a roadshow from the airport, Shah will travel to the  guest house where he will stay overnight. The chief minister will visit BJP chief at the state guest house for the breakfast. This in itself is likely to send a message to the people of the state as the chief minister will drive to the guest house. Later that day, after finishing all his party functions, Shah will visit Nitish Kumar at his official bungalow for dinner.

On the surface, this may signal cordiality, but the sequence of both meeting each other may send a different message to the people on who will play the big brother. Ironically, eight years ago, Nitish Kumar had cancelled the dinner he had planned for the BJP leaders after he felt the then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi had landed in his turf—Patna—with a big bang. The BJP at that time was holding the national executive meeting in Patna, and Nitish Kumar was part of the NDA.

Presently, the BJP aims at contesting the maximum number of seats in the state where it had won 22 out of the 40 seats in 2014 Lok Sabha elections. As the JD(U) had contested alone, it could manage to win only two seats. The JD(U) was asking for seat sharing formula when both parties were in alliance in 2009 and it had got more seats to contest.

Earlier, in order to placate its recalcitrant ally Shiv Sena, Shah had gone to Matoshri, the official residence of Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray. Sena wanted this as in the past BJP leaders had visited Matoshri when Bal Thackeray was alive. This time, Sena had already said it will contest Lok Sabha polls separately. Despite its public pronouncements, it has not yet pulled out of the state government.

To keep its third largest ally firmly by its side, PM Narendra Modi chose Akali Dal stronghold to hold a rally to highlight his government’s relief measures to farmers. Modi was in Malout in Punjab to address a rally on the issue of increase in crop MSP.

The BJP will firmly need allies by its side so that votes are not divided during the Lok Sabha elections as the opposition parties are planning a similar strategy of jointly contesting against the aggressive BJP-led NDA.