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Rajya Sabha numbers on mind, BJP dials Jaya

By Archis Mohan
May 19, 2014 09:06 IST
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BJP-led govt will need regional parties' support in Upper House to get legislation cleared. Archis Mohan reports

Prime minister-designate Narendra Modi, looking to give a shape to his council of ministers, spent Sunday holding consultations with advisors, colleagues and leaders of the National Democratic Alliance partners.

He also kept a watch on the developments in Bihar, paid visits to party seniors L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi and, most significantly, spoke to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa over phone.

Both Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party President Rajnath Singh congratulated Jayalalithaa for her party's performance in the Lok Sabha elections.

Though BJP has won a clear majority in the Lok Sabha, its numbers in the Rajya Sabha are likely to influence the coming Modi government's approach to regional parties, including Jayalalithaa's All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazghagam (AIADMK).

In the current scenario, these overtures are seen stemming primarily from cold political calculations.

BJP has only 46 MPs in the 250-member Rajya Sabha.

Along with its existing NDA allies, the number increases to 65, which is substantially short of the simple majority NDA would need to get important legislation cleared. The Congress has 68 members.

So, NDA would need support from regional parties like AIADMK because the numbers in the Upper House cannot change in BJP's favour before early 2016, when a third of the Rajya Sabha MPs will be elected in the biennial elections to the House.

According to a Tamil Nadu government press release, Modi's phone call to Jayalalithaa was in response to the congratulatory letter she sent him on Friday.

Modi conveyed his congratulations for the remarkable victory her party had secured in the Lok Sabha elections in Tamil Nadu. AIADMK won 37 of the state's 39 seats.

Of the remaining two, one each was bagged by BJP and its ally Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK). In her letter, Jayalalithaa had wished Modi a very successful tenure as prime minister.

According to the statement, Modi assured Jayalalithaa of absolute cooperation between the central and the state governments. Modi and Jayalalithaa are known to share a good rapport: The Tamil Nadu CM was one of the few regional leaders Modi had invited for his oath-taking ceremony as Gujarat's chief minister in December 2012.

Among regional parties, AIADMK has 10 MPs in the Rajya Sabha, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress has 12, Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik's Biju Janata Dal has six, while Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party has 14. The Janata Dal (United) and the Samajwadi Party have nine members each.

Many of these parties are unlikely to support BJP, but parties like AIADMK, even BJD, might be amenable. BJP has, therefore, maintained it is likely to extend its hand of friendship to all regional parties ready to support the central government.

Meanwhile, there also were reports that the Trinamool Congress' 34 Lok Sabha members and AIADMK's 37 were forming an alliance to secure the post of the leader of Opposition in the Lower House, which the two parties might share for the next five years.
Together, the two parties have 71 MPs in the House, while the Congress, the single largest party after BJP, has 44. Since the Congress' representation in the House is less than 10 per cent of the total, the decision on whether or not to accord it the status of the leader of Opposition will rest with the next Speaker of the Lok Sabha.

On Sunday, while there was a steady stream of BJP and NDA leaders visiting Gujarat Bhavan to meet Modi, many BJP leaders also visited the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh's (RSS') Delhi headquarters to meet the Sangh leadership.

Among those who visited Modi were Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan, along with his wife and son, Nagaland CM Neiphiu Rio, BJP Bihar incharge Dharmenda Pradhan, BJP General-Secretary J P Nadda, former Karnataka CM B S Yedyurappa and Ananth Kumar.

The PM-designate is likely to spend the next couple of days in Gujarat. He will on Tuesday attend the BJP legislature party meeting, which is likely to elect Anandiben Patel as its new leader and the next chief minister of Gujarat.

The same day, he would be back to Delhi, where he will attend the BJP Parliamentary party's meeting to elect its leader. On Wednesday, Modi will attend a special session of the Gujarat Assembly and tender to the governor his resignation as the state's chief minister.

Many BJP leaders, such as former party president M Venkaiah Naidu, also visited the RSS headquarters. Naidu said RSS was a social organisation with no role to play in Cabinet formation. "The question does not arise. The Sangh never interferes in such matters," he said.

RSS spokesman Ram Madav also rejected the speculation that RSS was actively participating in the Cabinet formation process.

"Sangh's work is accomplished, and it will go back to its basic service of nation and society building, character and personality development," Madhav said, adding RSS would take the credit for raising voter turnout 10 percentage points through its public awareness programmes.

Others who visited the RSS headquarters in Delhi were Kalraj Mishra, Harsh Vardhan, Gopinath Munde and Rajiv Pratap Rudy.

BJP president Rajnath Singh also held meetings with senior leaders Arun Jaitley and others.

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Archis Mohan
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