No sitting on the lead

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No sitting on the lead

BJP's take-no-prisoners style of campaigning extends to its Rajya Sabha poll strategy too

A cricketing analogy perhaps works best to explain the transformation the BJP has brought about in the nature of electoral campaigns in India since 2014. From 1932 through till the millennium Indian cricket captains were, with a couple of honourable exceptions, content to sit on their lead. Not because a Tiger Pataudi was not aggressive or an Ajit Wadekar did not want to embellish India's win record or indeed a Sunny Gavaskar's competitive instinct was second to anyone's. No, the sad reality was that India just didn't, in the main, have the bowling to get the Opposition out twice in Test matches so sitting on the lead and playing for a draw was considered the safer option. Then came Sourav Ganguly leading the Indian team of the 2000s and we have not looked back since, whether under MS Dhoni or Virat Kohli. In fact, when their foot is on their adversary's neck, metaphorically of course, they press down further.

Similarly, the forthcoming elections to a large tranche of Rajya Sabha seats has shown that the famed electoral machine put in place by the BJP leadership for the 2014 Lok Sabha poll and deployed subsequently in various Assembly elections/by-polls with party president Amit Shah playing a hands-on role as director of operations, is now all set to bring the same maximalist approach to the elections to the House of Elders. Early signs that this indeed would be the case were visible when the BJP pulled out all the stops to prevent senior Congress Ahmed Patel from getting re-elected to the Rajya Sabha from Gujarat last year, in which it narrowly failed. But the party's decision to field an extra candidate each, that is one more than it is assured to win given its strength in the respective Assemblies of Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat (always assuming there is no cross-voting from within its ranks which is highly unlikely), shows just how aggressively the party is thinking. The Opposition, which has tried all tricks in the trade including promising each other's candidates their extra votes, knows it is in a fight. And against an opponent the likes of which it has not seen before.

But there is a purpose to the BJP's aggression. While it has an overwhelming majority in the Lok Sabha, in the Upper House the BJP, though it has now overtaken the Congress as the single largest party, is still short of a majority. In the run-up to the General Elections the party think-tank clearly knows that each vote in both Houses could prove vital for the passage of Bills requiring a Constitutional amendment with a two-third majority in both Houses or even in a joint sitting of Parliament. Of course, even if that requirement does not come to pass, it's always a good feeling to win. It's the Opposition which has to keep its flock together now in the face of a scorched earth BJP strategy. There are interesting times ahead.

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