Friday, 21 January, 2022
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Forget Congress-mukt Bharat, is BJP planning an ally-mukt party for 2019?

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The BJP is ambitious and wants to expand while the allies are suspicious of it.

Does the BJP have any alliance strategy after its split with the Mehbooba Mufti-led PDP in Jammu and Kashmir?

Political analysts are intrigued with the BJP’s plans for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, given its chequered past in keeping its alliance flock together. Is the BJP confident of going it alone despite the threat of the opposition uniting against it and the party’s recent electoral setbacks in several bypolls?

The BJP’s alliance politics started prominently in 1998 when Atal Bihari Vajpayee formed the NDA government with 24 partners and ruled until 2004. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi formed his government in 2014, although the BJP had a majority on its own, he accommodated the pre-poll allies by including them in his cabinet.

It is a different story now with most alliance partners openly expressing their dissatisfaction with the BJP’s ‘big brother’ attitude. The BJP’s four main allies have been the Shiv Sena, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Of these, ties with the TDP and the PDP have been snapped while the Shiv Sena has ruled out an alliance with the BJP for 2019 polls. The Akali Dal too is not very happy with the BJP.

Hitting rough weather

The bitterness between the BJP and the Shiv Sena, its oldest partner, started growing after 2014 when the former emerged as the largest party in the Maharashtra assembly. Even after BJP president Amit Shah met Sena pramukh Uddhav Thackeray in Mumbai recently, the differences between the two parties have not been sorted out. The Shiv Sena won 18 Lok Sabha seats in 2014.

The TDP, led by Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababau Naidu, has been in and out of the NDA. Playing the victim, Naidu decided to leave the NDA in March, claiming that the Centre did not give the state a special category status despite an assurance when the state was bifurcated in 2014. The TDP, after the Sena, was the BJP’s largest alliance partner with 16 seats in Lok Sabha.

The PDP-BJP alliance was the most bizarre, and what late PDP leader Mufti Mohammed Sayeed called as an alliance between the North Pole and the South Pole. It took the BJP more than three years to realise that the alliance was going nowhere. Mehbooba Mufti was not able to run the government in the wake of increasing terrorist attacks and rising public anger. The BJP took the lead in severing the ties with the PDP.

The Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP alliance in Punjab has been similar to a roller-coaster ride. The SAD feels that the BJP, which is a junior partner in the state, is not following the coalition dharma. After the Punjab assembly election loss, the relationship between the two parties has been strained. The SAD has four seats in Lok Sabha.

The return of Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal (United) to the NDA fold made smaller parties in Bihar like the Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) and Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP) apprehensive. Within the next few months, former Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi’s HAM quit the NDA.

Mollifying partners

2019 is not the same as 2014. The BJP has expanded its base and has become the richest and biggest party, overtaking the Congress even in Rajya Sabha. Its winning spree continues as it has NDA governments in 20 states.

It has major presence in most big states, and is now eyeing Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. The saffron party has replaced the Left in Tripura and edged Congress out in West Bengal and Odisha as the challenger to the ruling party. Further growth calls for displacing allies.

The party, however, is sending contradictory signals. Stung by recent bypoll losses, the BJP has started

mollifying allies. The BJP and allies managed to win two of the four Lok Sabha seats and just one of the 10 assembly seats where bypolls were held in May.

Expressing concern over repeated defeats in bypolls, union minister Upendra Kushwaha noted there was something wrong. “NDA should call a meeting to discuss with its allies,” he said.

Worried about the results, BJP chief Amit Shah, as part of an outreach effort, landed up at Uddhav Thackeray’s Matoshree to mollify the latter. Shah also met Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) leader Ram Vilas Paswan, who is unhappy with the BJP. The BJP tried to please the Akali Dal by waiving the GST on items used for langar.

The BJP’s outreach effort comes at a time when the Congress, which is on the decline, is in the process of building coalitions state-by-state to challenge the BJP. The Congress has realised the need for allies. The united opposition’s strategy is to defeat the saffron party in 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

Contrast this with the scenario within the NDA, which has lost major allies recently even as the remaining are reassessing their future strategy. The BJP is ambitious and wants to expand while the allies are suspicious of the party. The question is: does the BJP want to be an ally mukt party or will it assuage the feelings of the allies and rebuild the coalition?

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  1. Narendra Modi and Amit Shah will eventually flee abroad just like their collaborators including Nirav Modi, Vijay Mallya, Lalit Modi etc. We don’t need any of them in India anymore.

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