With the BJP’s oldest and biggest ally Shiv Sena leaving the coalition, NDA alliance partners have started questioning the BJP’s style of functioning, indicating minor cracks in the ruling alliance for the first time since the BJP’s spectacular coming to power in 2014.
As Shiv Sena — which has 18 MPs in the Lok Sabha — walked out of the NDA accusing the BJP of not honouring a pre-poll promise for Maharashtra, other allies including SAD have also voiced their dissatisfaction.
“The NDA is shaky,” SAD leader and Rajya Sabha MP Naresh Gujral told The Indian Express. “The allies are being neglected. We are being humiliated. NDA is not in good shape, because they have the full majority and do not care about allies. In its search for new allies, the BJP is ignoring and sidelining older allies.”
BJP’s other allies — smaller parties and regional parties — are miffed with the way the ruling party is running the coalition. The LJP recently decided against any electoral pact with the BJP for the Jharkhand elections, and warned that it cannot take its partners for granted.
Older allies were vocal about the “respect” they got during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-L K Advani era of the BJP. “There was better coordination. Our concerns were accommodated. Now there is no equity in the relationship,” Gujral said.
BJP’s alliance with AJSU is also facing problems over seat-sharing in Jharkhand. The BJP’s less-than-expected poll performance in Haryana and Maharashtra has led the smaller ally to be more demanding.
The voices of discontent could get louder over a number of contentious issues. On Thursday, BJP’s Bihar ally JD-U, which has been having a bumpy ride with the BJP since the Lok Sabha polls, questioned BJP chief and Home Minister Amit Shah over his remarks that the NRC would be implemented across the country. JD-U national vice-president and strategist Prashant Kishor reminded the BJP that more than 15 states with more than 55 per cent of India’s population have non-BJP chief ministers. “Wonder how many of them have been consulted and are on-board for NRC in their respective states!!” he tweeted.
Though it was in a pre-poll alliance with the BJP, JD-U — which has 16 MPs in Lok Sabha — has not joined the Central government. BJP leaders from Bihar admitted the alliance was fragile.
With the BJP scheduling the Citizenship Amendment Bill for the ongoing winter session, voices of dissent from its smaller partners in the Northeast could resurface. AGP, its ally in Assam, had raised objections against the Bill earlier, and is unlikely to back it. The region had witnessed violent protests against the Bill when it was brought in the 16th Lok Sabha.
However, Himanta Biswa Sarma, senior BJP leader and Assam Finance Minister, said, “BJP is reaching out to all partners in the Northeast and trying to address concerns. Amit Shah has been meeting leaders, we are not anticipating any major protests by parties this time,” Sarma told The Indian Express.
A senior BJP leader admitted that the style of functioning of the party leadership could be a reason for the departure of a traditional ally like Shiv Sena, and the developments may force it to review its functioning. “We have lost much ground to the Opposition and regional parties,” the leader said. According to another leader, the emergence of NCP chief Sharad Pawar as a top leader on the national stage would not be a “good message” for the BJP.
After losing Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh to the Congress in 2018, the BJP could not make impressive gains in the elections in Telangana and Odisha. The Congress emerged as a formidable opposition force in Gujarat, and the BJP had to wait for the Congress-JD(S) alliance to crumble in Karnataka as it could not win a simple majority. In Haryana it had to forge an alliance with the newly formed JJP post-election to muster a majority. UP and Uttarakhand were the states that gave the BJP absolute majority in state polls. The party is now gearing up for a fierce fight in Jharkhand as well as in Delhi, scheduled to go vote early 2020.