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Big fish aside, Narendra Modi woos small parties for alliance

Monday, 17 February 2014 - 6:00am IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: DNA

With opinion polls predicting that the Bharatiya Janata Party will increase its Lok Sabha tally but fall short of the magic figure, the party is not leaving any stone unturned in weaving its strategy for the electoral battle. And with the onus of building up the BJP-led alliance now on his shoulders, the party's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi has asked his cadre to reach out to every potential ally — big or small.

The BJP has set its eyes on smaller parties even as per-poll alliances with bigger players such as AIADMK, Trinamool Congress and Biju Janata Dal — all of whom have been NDA constituents in the past — have eluded the saffron party this time around.

In recent weeks, the BJP has firmed up its alliance with the Republican Party of India by giving its lone Rajya Sabha seat from Maharashtra to its leader Ramdas Athawale. In Tamil Nadu, it has formed an alliance with Vaiko's MDMK. In Odisha, another state where the BJP does not have a single Lok Sabha seat, the party is exploring an electoral understanding with the newly formed Odisha Jan Morcha of Pyarilal Mohapatra, a former Biju Janata Dal leader. And in Bihar, the saffron party is considering an alliance with Janata Dal-U rebel Upendra Kushwaha's Rashtriya Lok Samata Party.

Kushwaha, along with some of his other party members, held talks with BJP leaders in Delhi last week. "The talks for an alliance are in the final stages. The BJP is not sparing any effort. Several individuals are joining the party and small parties are aligning with it," said a senior leader involved in the talks on condition of anonymity. The source refused to reveal details of seat-sharing arrangement with Kushwaha's party if the alliance is finalised.

With Kushwaha, from the Koeri caste, on its side, the BJP is hoping to break chief minister Nitish Kumar's support base of Kurmis and the most backwards.

That the BJP is making efforts to tap the backward class vote, particularly in Bihar, is apparent from the party's strategy of trying to cash in on Modi's OBC status. The party is also banking on Modi to cut across caste equations in the Lok Sabha elections.

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