Intensifying hostility from regional parties, some of which have been friendly but are getting caught up in electoral compulsions of their own, has become the latest challenge for the BJP as the party prepares its strategies for the presidential election and key Rajya Sabha elections coming up this year.
With President Ram Nath Kovind set to complete his term by July, the presidential election is scheduled to be held by mid-2022. Also, elections will be held for 75 Rajya Sabha seats which are expected to fall vacant through the year.
While the President is elected by an electoral college comprising MPs and MLAs, Rajya Sabha members are elected by an electoral college of MLAs of the particular state Assembly.
With Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur expected to head into elections soon, senior BJP leaders admitted that the “changing scenario” in states where regional parties have dominance could alter its calculations for the presidential elections and the Rajya Sabha.
“With elections coming up, there is a greater mobilisation to occupy the anti-BJP space. There is also more dynamism in the regional parties’ opposition to the BJP. We cannot predict how it is going to be, but the party is conscious of this,” a senior party leader said.
Of the 75 Rajya Sabha seats that will fall vacant this year, 11 are from Uttar Pradesh, so the strength of the SP and BSP in the newly constituted Assembly will be crucial; seven are from Punjab, where the BJP is gambling on electoral alliances with smaller parties; six each from Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, two states where its rival parties are dominant; and four in Andhra Pradesh.
Of the 75 Rajya Sabha seats that will see elections this year, 26 are currently held by BJP members. BJP leaders admitted that while the party is not expecting to increase its own strength in the Rajya Sabha in a big way, it will attempt to retain its numbers.
At present, the BJP has 97 MPs in the 237-member Upper House. Despite its clear majority in the Lok Sabha, given its strength in the Rajya Sabha, the BJP has had to seek the support of regional parties to push through key legislation.
But the just concluded Winter Session has intensified BJP’s apprehensions over the support of smaller parties. While the YSRCP, Andhra Pradesh’s ruling party, has sided with the BJP on most issues in the House, parties like the Telangana Rashtra Samithi and the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) had visibly distanced themselves from the ruling BJP.
During the initial days of the session, TRS MPs disrupted proceedings almost every day and later boycotted the session over the paddy procurement issue. The BJD had joined hands with the Opposition to allege that the government was pushing Bills through without discussion.
On the issue of renewing the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) licence of the Missionaries of Charity (MoC), Naveen Patnaik was quick to offer funds from the CM’s Relief Fund to see that the organisation faces no fund crunch.
Recently, addressing party workers, Patnaik had announced that his party had no bosses in Delhi. “We do not have any bosses in Delhi. The people of Odisha are the boss of the BJD,” he told workers on the party’s 25th Foundation Day, apparently hitting out at the BJP.
“When the elections (Lok Sabha) are midway, the way BJP has positioned itself in Delhi will not be appreciated by parties like the TRS and BJD, for which the BJP is the main rival in their respective states. In fact, Jagan Mohan Reddy in Andhra, K Chandrasekhar Rao in Telangana and Naveen Patnaik in Bhubaneswar have issues with our party. But we do not expect much opposition from the YSRCP,” said a BJP office bearer familiar with the functioning of the party units in the south.
Senior BJP leaders predict tougher positions from regional parties if the BJP fails to return to power in Uttar Pradesh with an impressive number. “In that case, leaders like Patnaik and Rao will join the others who are jostling for (the anti-BJP) space at the national level. They know the mobilisation has to take place in the next two years. That will then reflect in the Rajya Sabha, where the legislative process will be tougher for us,” the office bearer explained.