Underscoring former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s successful coalition politics that gave “utmost importance to regional aspirations”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Thursday that the BJP “cherished old friends” and its doors were always open for parties as a “strong NDA is an article of faith” for the party.
Interacting with booth workers of Tamil Nadu via video conferencing, Modi, responding to a question on the “rumours on BJP’s alliance with “parties in Tamil Nadu, AIADMK, Rajinikanth and even the DMK” recalled that his predecessor Vajpayee led coalition governments for eight years.
“Twenty years ago, the visionary leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee brought in a new culture of successful political coalitions. Atalji gave topmost importance to regional aspirations. Atalji considered the Centre and the state can work together for the welfare of the nation,” Modi told booth-level workers from Arakkonam, Krishnagiri, Erode, Cuddalore and Dharmapuri.
The Prime Minister’s remarks come at a time when the BJP is firming up its election strategies and after at least four regional parties have pulled out of the BJP-led NDA in the last year. While the Telugu Desam Party walked out of the alliance in March 2018, the BJP ended its alliance with the PDP in Jammu and Kashmir in June last year.
Since then, Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) leader and Union Minister of State Upendra Kushwaha walked out of the NDA and the Shiv Sena, the BJP’s oldest ally, has already publicly declared that it will contest the next Lok Sabha elections alone.
The BJP leadership recently has indicated that it will try hard to retain its smaller allies and work towards getting more parties into the BJP-led NDA fold, particularly after losing three Hindi heartland states to the Congress last month.
Bid to project BJP as good ally
PM Narendra Modi invoking his predecessor Atal Bihari Vajpayee to talk about political alliances will be seen as the eagerness in the BJP leaders to present itself as an effective coalition leader. The emphasis on the BJP as a party that respects regional aspirations and regional parties clearly shows that the party wants to project itself as a good coalition partner. This also reflects the growing apprehensions in the party about its own performance. The PM’s call that “our doors are open” could be a message to smaller parties in Tamil Nadu where the party has failed to make a major electoral impact so far.
On Thursday, Modi also juxtaposed the “Congress culture” with that of the BJP. “What Atalji did was in contrast to the Congress, which has never cared for aspirations. Congress ill-treated regional political parties and regional aspirations as well as regional people. Because they felt no one (else) had the right to be in power. In one of their party meetings, they passed a resolution saying they did not want an alliance. Such was their arrogance,” he said.
Referring to a recent statement by Congress president Rahul Gandhi, Modi said that even today, the Congress says it will surprise everyone in Uttar Pradesh while “everyone is aware of the reality”.
He said: “The BJP has always followed the path shown by Atalji. A strong NDA is an article of faith for us. It’s not a compulsion even when BJP won a majority on its own, we preferred to run our government with our allies. We cherished old friends and our doors are always open for parties.”
However, he added, “More than all these political issues, the winning alliance is an alliance with the people. The strongest alliance is one with the common citizen. So we have to focus on remaining in alliance with the people.”
The PM also targeted the Congress on mismanaging the economy and corruption and said that it did “deep damage” to the armed forces. According to Modi, the Congress had turned the defence sector into a “den of brokers and middlemen” and a defence deal would have happened in the Congress regime only if there was a “deal”.