Since 2013, there has been no official convenor of the NDA. Allies indicate they’ve begun to feel sidelined, with no one to keep the house in order.
New Delhi: As the BJP and some of its allies such as the Shiv Sena and the Telugu Desam Party drift apart, leaders among the allies of the ruling party have started reminiscing about a system that had been created just to deal with or avoid problems such as these – the convenor of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
Senior leaders of parties allied with the BJP say the NDA convenor used to be the go-to person for any matter in the alliance. There were many policy decisions to be made, and allies wanted their say in them all, and the NDA convenor’s job was to keep the house in order.
But since 2013, there has been no official NDA convenor.
A post held by non-BJP stalwarts such as George Fernandes and Sharad Yadav through the NDA’s time in government and in opposition has been virtually extinct since Yadav left the post when the JD(U) split from the NDA in 2013. In fact, TDP leader and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu himself lobbied to get the post, but failed.
Senior BJP leaders maintain that PM Narendra Modi holds NDA meetings during Parliament sessions, and that party chief Amit Shah takes care of the coalition. “The allies are consulted and their interest is taken care of. The top brass knows what it is doing,” said a senior BJP leader.
However, the allies have a different story to tell.
Encroaching upon allies’ space
Even if a convenor is appointed, allies like the Shiromani Akali Dal say all they can hope for now is that the BJP will not intrude into their political space.
“In today’s time, an NDA convenor, even if appointed, can do nothing. We don’t want the coalition to break,” said Akali Dal leader Naresh Gujral. “We have been together for such a long time. We appreciate their economic policies, as corruption has come down and crony capitalism is tamed. Having said that, we do not want the BJP to intrude in to our political spaces. That crosses the line.”
It’s not just the Akali Dal – other allies also feel that when a party starts demanding something or asserting itself in front of the Modi-Shah BJP, the bigger ally starts encroaching upon its political space.
“See them in Maharashtra, they are ready to eat into Shiv Sena’s political space,” said a JD(U) leader on the condition of anonymity.
Shiv Sena’s Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut recalls the time when the NDA convenor solved many crises within the coalition. He recalls meetings at senior BJP leader L.K. Advani’s residence, where the familiar surroundings put allies at ease.
“At least allies felt that they were being heard then,” Raut says, adding apart from meetings in Parliament, there are no NDA meetings any more. “Today, you only meet in Parliament and in the library building. Today, there is no entity called the NDA.”
“The BJP should do some research on how to run a coalition government. Today, the allies understand that they won’t get a say until the BJP has a majority of its own in the Lok Sabha,” Raut said. “But the BJP will understand the importance of its allies only when its majority is lost, which is likely to happen, if you see the trend of bypoll results across the country.”