Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

BJP breaks with Shiv Sena

On 25/9/2014 BJP ended its 25-year old alliance with Shiv Sena.  BJP was not satisfied with Shiv Sena’s offer of seats for Maharashtra Legislative Assembly election on 15/10/2014.  The day also saw Narendra Modi’s departure for USA to address UN General Assembly, gathering at Madison Square Garden, meet Barack Obama and corporates.  It also saw the end of Congress-NCP alliance of 15 years.  It is difficult to say whether the three events are related.

BJP has suffered losses in recent by-elections and had lost seats it had held before.  There was a feeling that BJP will be subdued while dealing with Shiv Sena.  That did not happen.  By-election losses did not deter BJP from pressing its demands and ultimately breaking away.

For long many in Maharashtra BJP had resented Shiv Sena’s dominance.  They had to swallow their pride as BJP’s national leadership did not want to break with Shiv Sena.

The alliance was forged in 1989.  BJP had two seats in Lok Sabha.  I don’t know how many seats they had in Maharashtra Legislative Assembly.  Shiv Sena did not have any seat in Lok Sabha and had one seat in Legislative Assembly.  That was of Chhagan Bhujbal.  Pramod Mahajan had met Bal Thackeray and had forged the alliance.  AtaL Behari Vajpayee, Lal Krishna Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi were BJP’s national leaders.  In subsequent elections the alliance won many seats in Maharashtra.  The alliance ruled Maharashtra in 1995-1999.  Shiv Sena was part of NDA that ruled India in 1998-2004.

The original arrangement was for Lok Sabha BJP to contest to 32 seats and Shiv Sena 16 and for Legislative Assembly Shiv Sena to contest 171 seats and BJP 117.  Over the years BJP Lok Sabha share came down to 24.  Shiv Sena got six seats, one of them Thane held by Ram Kapse, and other allies got two.  For Legislative Assembly Shiv Sena gave two seats to BJP in 2009.  After Pramod Mahajan’s death Gopinath Munde kept the alliance going.  He died in an accident.  After Bal Thackeray’s death Uddhav Thackeray became leader of Shiv Sena.

In 2014 Narendra Modi became Prime Minister and undisputed leader of BJP.  He did not have a good equation with Shiv Sena.  Shiv Sena was in favour of Sushma Swaraj as PM candidate.  During Lok Sabha elections Nitin Gadkari had tried to bring MNS and NCP into alliance.  That was opposed by Shiv Sena.

BJP leader Eknath Khadse said “Each Lok Sabha seat comprises six Assembly constituencies.  In that sense, by giving away our six Lok Sabha seats, which had elective merit, we have already given them 36 Assembly seats.  The BJP also surrendered its Rajya Sabha seat held by Prakash Javadekar to Republican Party of India chief Ramdas Athavale ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.”  BJP felt RPI was brought in by Shiv Sena.  So Shiv Sena should have given up its Rajya Sabha seat for RPI.

NCP wanted half of the seats and chief ministership for half of the term.  Congress did not agree.  NCP claimed it was a better party as it had won four Lok Sabha seats while Congress had won two.

Talks for seat sharing dragged on for days.  Uddhav Thackeray wanted to be chief minister.  Shiv Sena said there is no Modi wave.  Lust can lead to divorce.  BJP countered by saying impotence can lead to divorce.  There was a report that on 23/9/2014 BJP had decided to end the alliance but continued talks because of RSS order.  RSS could delay the split by two days but not avoid it.

The electoral contest in Maharashtra is wide open.  MNS has announced its list of candidates.  Congress will ally with SP.  Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, Rashtriya Samaj Party and Shiv Sangram are with BJP.  AAP has decided not to contest.  Their leaders want to concentrate on Delhi.  That is a wrong decision.  A party becomes irrelevant if it does not contest elections.  NCP has quit the government and has withdrawn support to the government.  In most constituencies there will be at least five candidates.  In such a scenario a party can get 27% of votes and more than 50% of seats.

Voters who voted for BJP-Shiv Sena alliance for 25 years or for Congress-NCP alliance for 15 years have a choice to make.  RSS has to choose between BJP, Shiv Sena or being neutral.

 

 

BJP losses in by-elections

Modi government came to power on 26/5/2014.  After that it has been downhill for BJP in by-elections.

In Uttarakhand there were by-elections for three Legislative Assembly seats.  Two of these were due to BJP MLAs resigning after winning Lok Sabha elections.  BJP lost all three.

In Bihar there were by-elections for ten Legislative Assembly seats.  BJP lost four of the eight seats it had held.

In Karnataka BJP lost Bellary seat.

In Uttar Pradesh there were by-elections for eleven Legislative Assembly seats.  Ten were held by BJP, one by its ally Apna Dal.  BJP lost seven, Apna Dal lost its seat.

In Gujarat there were by-elections for nine Legislative Assembly seats, all held by BJP.  BJP lost three.

In Rajasthan there were by-elections for four Legislative Assembly seats, all held by BJP. BJP lost three.

BJP gained two seats; one in Assam and one in West Bengal.  Overall it was dismal performance for BJP.

What went wrong for BJP?  What did BJP’s enemies do right?  Some BJP members blamed candidate selection and sabotage for losses.  Sudhanshu Mittal said two candidates in Rajasthan were wrong.  But such things do not explain overall loss.

Modi had made many promises.  Expectations were high.  Prices of essential commodities did not come down.  In some cases they went up.  There was disappointment.  Someone said tomatoes cost as much as petrol.

In Bihar Congress, JD(U) and RJD came together in a coalition against BJP.  In UP BSP did not field candidates and that benefitted SP.

Modi spoke of development and got votes.  In UP BJP leaders talked of love jihad.  Yogi Adityanath did not talk of development.  He spoke of love jihad.  Sakshi Maharaj said madrasas are training Muslim youth in terrorism and love jihad.  A Muslim young man gets 11 lakh rupees for affair with a Sikh girl, 10 lakh rupees for Hindu girl and 7 lakh rupees for Jain girl.  In Jaipur Maneka Gandhi said “Money through trade of slaughtered animals goes into terrorism and therefore into killing us.”  Such statements did not help BJP.

It is reality check for BJP, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah.  The euphoria generated during Lok Sabha elections has dissipated.  After Lok Sabha victory Narendra Modi had said Rajnath Singh was captain and Amit Shah was Man of the Match.  Narendra Modi wanted Amit Shah as BJP President and that happened.  Amit Shah was hailed as a strategist.  Within four months Amit Shah’s strategy has failed.  He selected candidates.  Blame for failure will be on him.

Sometimes BJP spokespersons do not do a good job in defending Narendra Modi.  Some journalists are hostile to Narendra Modi.  They connect unrelated issues to him and want to blame him.  Karan Thapar once asked Shaina N. C. about Modi’s silence on the murder of a techie in Poona.  She said she was appalled.  She should have said law and order is a state subject and Maharashtra’s chief minister or home minister should be questioned about this.  Bhupendra Choube connected K. Chandrasekhara Rao’s statement against journalists to Narendra Modi referring to journalists as news traders.  There was no BJP spokesperson.  May be CNN-IBN did not invite any BJP spokesperson as the issue was non-telecast of two TV channels in Telangana.  Rajdeep Sardesai is now with Headlines Today as consulting editor.  For three and half months he was not seen on TV.

Something is seriously wrong if vote share of a party goes down in a constituency within four months.  The excuse of local elections being different than national elections does not work here because BJP had held those seats earlier.  Lok Sabha victory is history.  Congress has bounced back in Rajasthan and Gujarat.  SP has emerged stronger in UP.  BJP has tough competition ahead.  It cannot take victories in Haryana and Maharashtra for granted.

Coalition of the killing

On 10/9/2014 on Al Jazeera there was a discussion on ISIS also known as ISIL, IS or Caliphate.  Phyllis Bennis referred to John Kerry’s plan to put together a coalition of the willing as a coalition of the killing.  She said in American media the beheadings of two American journalists have been portrayed as danger to all Americans instead of American journalists who go to Iraq and Syria.  The beheading of six ISIS fighters including one American by so-called moderate Free Syrian Army has not been reported except by New York Times in an article in an inside page.  USA by air strikes in Iraq took part in a civil war on the side of Kurdish Peshmerga and Shias against Sunni ISIS.

Later Barack Obama said “We will degrade and ultimately destroy ISIS through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy.  America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat.”

Calling ISIS a terrorist threat is ignoring the reality that it is a state.  It fulfils four conditions needed for a state: population, territory, government, sovereignty.

The condemnation of ISIS by Arab League sounds hollow.  Many of these countries had supported ISIS.  They supplied it with money and arms and trained them.  Some Americans had warned against arming rebel forces in Syria as they were full of people who hated America. Those warning were ignored by American government.

The coalition seems doomed.  A Turkish official said “Turkey will not be involved in any armed operation but will entirely concentrate on humanitarian operation.”  Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman do not want ISIS to fail.  They do not want to offend USA.  They are likely to play on both sides as Pakistan did in America’s War on Terror in Afghanistan.

ISIS had driven out Christians, Yazidis, and Shias from the territories they had conquered.  But US air strikes were ostensibly to protect Americans in Erbil, also known as Arbil or Irbil.  There were 40 consular staff and 100 American soldiers in Erbil.  If any other country had done such a thing there would have been condemnation.

USA’s involvement in Afghanistan has been a disaster.  Soldiers trained by Americans have killed American soldiers.  The attacks are known as green on blue attacks.  If Taliban continues to thrive in Afghanistan it is partly because of Pakistan and partly because of protection money given to Taliban by suppliers who supply goods to Americans.  Money given for projects for development in Afghanistan went to private accounts of Afghan officials in UAE.  Similar situation is likely to arise in Iraq and Syria.

Afghanistan is in a mess.  Presidential election dispute is not resolved.  Afghan Constitution does not grant freedom of religion.  Any Muslim who changes religion can be sentenced to death.

Libya is in a mess.  Most embassies are closed and foreigners have left.  Different factions control different parts of Libya.

ISIS operated in Syria for a long time.  When it marched into Iraq and captured Mosul it grabbed worldwide attention.  For USA and allies they were freedom fighters in Syria.  In Iraq they became terrorists.

Many EU countries have recession.  Sanctions against Russia have resulted in counter-sanctions.  Russia stopped buying fruits, vegetables and meat from EU countries.  ISIS is not a threat to them.

UK is a willing and killing partner in USA’s invasion.  There is referendum in Scotland on independence on 18/9/2014.  Opinion polls show 51% Yes vote.  Many British politicians are worried.  Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister David Cameron, Liberal Party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, and Labour Party leader David Milliband had gone to Scotland to campaign for No vote.  Some British Muslims are in ISIS.  UK has a problem if they return.

ISIS would not have executed American journalists if they had got ransom.  Many Europeans journalists were released after ISIS received millions of euros in ransom.  For James Foley’s release ISIS is said to have demanded 100 million euros as ransom.  USA had a commando operation to rescue him which did not succeed.

There are attempts to win over Sunni tribal leaders in Iraq by USA.  It is done by offering money for switching sides.  In the past USA had been successful.  However when the money stops tribal leaders switch sides again.

With the rise of ISIS, Al Qaeda has faded into insignificance.  Ayman Al-Zawahiri’s statement of jihad in Indian sub-continent is an attempt to show Al-Qaeda still matters.

Vladimir Putin has warned against air strikes on ISIS in Syria without Syrian government’s permission has violation of Syria’s sovereignty.  If USA goes ahead with air strikes without permission Russia can counter USA in Syria or attack Ukraine.

In Nigeria also there is a caliphate, established by Boko Haram which had kidnapped more than 200 girls.  Not much is known about the whereabouts of the girls.

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