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As BJP Falls Short Of Majority, 2 Coalition-Era Veterans Emerge Kingmakers

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One was arrested eight months back and spent two months in jail in a corruption case probed by his arch-rival’s administration, the other was written off by many after the latest of his many flip-flops. The two have now emerged as kingmakers in this Lok Sabha election that have not given an absolute majority to the BJP. These two leaders are Bihar Chief Minister and JDU chief Nitish Kumar and Telugu Desam Party leader N Chandrababu Naidu.

Nearly 12 hours into the counting, TDP has won 16 seats on its own as the NDA dominated Andhra Pradesh with 21 wins out of 25 seats. In Bihar, Nitish Kumar’s JDU is set to win 12 seats, the same as BJP, despite contesting fewer constituencies than its ally.

As the poll picture became clearer by the evening, reports started doing the rounds that INDIA leaders are reaching out to the two veterans in their efforts to cobble together a majority. None of these were confirmed on record, as Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said they will hold a meeting with other INDIA allies tomorrow on the way forward.

How The Numbers Stack Up

At 9 pm, 13 hours after counting began, INDIA allies have together won 233 seats — 39 short of the majority mark. The BJP-led NDA has crossed the majority mark with a tally of 291 — 19 more than the majority mark. The BJP has scored 239 on its own — 33 short of the magic figure. Among the 19 unaligned MPs are four from YSRCP and Independents. So, if the INDIA bloc wants to have a shot at power, they need a combo of JDU, TDP and some Independents too. The BJP, on the other hand, must retain them at all costs if they want to stay in power.

In fact, Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge dropped a broad hint when he spoke of new partners in the party’s presser this evening. “Until we talk to our alliance partners… and the new partners that could join us about how we could work together and get a majority, we will see. If I reveal all our strategies now, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will become wary (‘hoshiyar ho jayenge’).”

The Flip-Flop Man

Mr Kumar’s latest switch to the NDA, months after he led the efforts to stitch together an Opposition alliance, had drawn much ridicule, with many writing his political obituary. After decades of leading NDA in Bihar, Mr Kumar had to settle with less number of seats as the BJP made it clear who the boss is. Cut to June 4, and the JDU chief holds the upper hand. And with his history of flip-flops, the BJP cannot be too sure.

The Comeback Man

From winning three seats in 2019 to a score of 19 this year, Chandrababu Naidu has staged an epic comeback. Riding on TDP’s shoulders, the BJP too managed three wins in a state it has no presence in. To add to it, TDP has also swept the Assembly polls. As someone who played a key role in propping up HD Devegowda and IK Gujral as Chief Minister during the coalition era of the 1990s, Mr Naidu has friends across the political divide. While senior TDP leaders, including his son Nara Lokesh, have said they would stick with NDA, the final call will be taken by the party boss.

 One was arrested eight months back and spent two months in jail in a corruption case probed by his arch-rival’s administration, the other was written off by many after the latest of his many flip-flops. The two have now emerged as kingmakers    

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