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BJP might just fall short of a majority on its own, says Ram Madhav

Ram Madhav says NDA will, however, have a comfortable majority. It will continue to focus on economic reforms & not populist cash handouts.

Archana Chaudhary and Iain Marlow
Ram Madhav | Ruhani Kaur/Bloomberg

New Delhi: A senior leader of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party forecasts it may fall just short of a clean majority, the first time the prospect of a coalition has been raised as India heads into the final two weeks of its marathon election campaign.

The conservative forecast by Ram Madhav, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s national general secretary, is just short of a clear majority in the 543-seat parliament, and is far below what other party leaders including finance minister Arun Jaitley and party president Amit Shah have publicly claimed.

“If we get 271 seats on our own, we will be very happy,” Madhav said in an interview with Bloomberg News Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait in New Delhi on Saturday. “With NDA we will have a comfortable majority,” he said referring to the National Democratic Alliance.

The party will make up expected losses in the north Indian states it swept in 2014 with new gains in the country’s remote northeast, as well as in the eastern states of West Bengal and Odisha, Madhav said. It will pursue pro-growth policies if it returns to power, he added, and has not shifted from a focus on economic reforms to one based on populist cash handouts.

Party faithful

The mood was more upbeat among the 50,000 people who packed into barren farmland covered in a huge tent near Bhadhoi — the carpet manufacturing capital of India — at one of Modi’s many election rallies. Before the prime minister spoke, the deputy chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Keshav Prasad Maura, warmed up the crowd.

“2014 was a Modi wave. 2019 is a Modi tsunami,” Maura said. “Your vote on the lotus will mean dropping 1000 kilogram bombs on terrorist camps,” he said, referring to the party’s symbol — a lotus — which is featured along with other party insignia on the buttons on electronic voting machine.

Modi arrived in an India Air Force helicopter and was greeted like a rock star.

“What’s the reason for India’s success,” Modi asked as people chanted ‘Modi, Modi.’ “It’s your vote.”

“When India attacked terrorist camps did it make you proud? Is Modi right? Should we proceed on this path?” The crowed yelled “yes.”

Also read: Smriti Irani & the BJP have ensured Rahul Gandhi needs to fight for Amethi this time

Pakistan talks

Still, for all Modi’s harsh rhetoric on Pakistan, Madhav — who deals with some foreign policy issues for the party — sounded hopeful about India’s relations with its nuclear-armed neighbor following a tense military clash in February.

The recent United Nations Security Council designation of Masood Azhar — the Pakistan-based head of a group that claimed a recent suicide bombing in India — as a global terrorist offers the chance for Islamabad to prove it’s cracking down on militant groups, he said.

Credible action could yield a productive meeting between Modi and Prime Minister Imran Khan, who are due to attend the Shanghai Co-operation Organization summit shortly after the end of India’s weeks-long election, which wraps up on May 23, Madhav said.

“They should show their sincerity towards the fight against terror,” Madhav said. “Why I’m saying this is, three weeks after the results, we have the SCO. At the SCO, Prime Minister Imran Khan and Prime Minister Modi will be face to face. It’s an opportunity for Pakistan. If something credible comes out in the next one month or so, before the SCO happens, I’m sure the relationship will have some improvement. But the onus is on them now.”

Azhar’s listing came after China dropped its objection at the UN. “My understanding is that China has finally calculated the gains and losses of taking a position on Masood Azhar this time around,” Madhav said.

‘Personal rapport’

Another significant development in India’s foreign policy had been the strengthening relationship between Modi and China’s President Xi Jinping. “They have developed a very good personal rapport,” Madhav said.

Read more: India Slips Further Behind China During First Five Years of Modi

On China’s vast and contentious Belt and Road infrastructure project, which India has refused to sign on to, Madhav said until the question of sovereignty was resolved there could be no compromise. India has long objected to the program because it funds $60 billion worth of infrastructure in Pakistan, including in parts of disputed Kashmir, which India claims as its own.

“We still have a view that the whole project is conceived unilaterally,” Madhav said.

Also read: I’m a traditional BJP-voting industrialist. Narendra Modi made me vote NOTA

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  1. Though Ram Madhav is frank enough to concede a sort of defeat from the high expectations of BJP and Modi Team, the picture he gives is still inflated. BJP cannot come closer even 200 seats with all its allies combined. So there is no chance for Modi to form the govt this time. We can;t say at this point who will be the next prime minister. We have to wait till May 23 for the results. But Modi and BJP have lost their chance.

  2. Prof PK Sharma, Freelance Journalist,Barnala (Punjab)

    Ironically, how has Mr.Ram Madhav dared to speak the truth embracing reality !

    He is certain to be rebuked and scolded for speaking his real mindset because it is
    not NaMo and BJP culture ! NaMo must be raising his angry eyebrows at Madhav
    for taking a divergent view on the outcome of 2019 Lok Sabha Polls painting BJP
    in a shaky and jittery colours !

    Amazingly a very different line taken by Madhav to cause a considerable damage !
    The fact cannot be denied that Madhav speaks volumes of the stark realities and
    true picture that is laudable !

    Prof PK Sharma Freelance Journalist
    Pom Anm Nest,Barnala(Punjab)

  3. Carefully coined words should be used when leaders meet International Press. Though the lines does not carry wrong meaning on the face of it,it gives a chance to “read between the lines”.

  4. According to Ms Swati Chaturvedi, our reliable guide to what is happening in Lutyens’ Delhi, gentleman no longer enjoys the same clout.


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