Even though it has progressed from strength to strength since the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP has alienated ally after ally in the past two years, with the PC Thomas-led faction of the Kerala Congress being the latest partner that is set to sever ties with the NDA. While a formal announcement on the break-up of BJP’s sole ally in Kerala is awaited, the development reflects the mood within the NDA camp, with regional parties calling out the BJP over its alleged big-brotherly attitude and blaming it for not following coalition dharma.
Besides losing its two oldest and ideologically-bound allies, Shiromani Akali Dal and Shiv Sena, within a year, the BJP has been abandoned by Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in 2018 followed by the All-Jharkhand Students’ Union (AJSU) last year. Moreover, in Bihar, the alliance also failed to keep its flock together, with the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) going solo in the elections. Upendra Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) in Bihar and Om Prakash Rajbhar’s Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party (SBSP) are the other notable allies that have walked out of the NDA.
At the time of Sena quitting the NDA, older allies were vocal about the “respect” they got during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-L K Advani era of the BJP. Even though the NDA still has about a dozen constituents, the party is bereft of any major ally, except JD(U) in Bihar and AIADMK in Tamil Nadu.
Moreover, following the death of LJP’s Ram Vilas Paswan and the resignation of Harsimrat Kaur Badal, the Narendra Modi government does not have a single minister of Cabinet rank from its alliance partners, with only Ramdas Athawale of the Republican Party of India (RPI) holding a minister of state (MoS) post.
We take a look at what caused allies to break away from the NDA:
Andhra Pradesh: Telugu Desam Party
TDP was the first party to leave the coalition since NDA came to power at the Centre in 2014. In 2018, the Chandrababu Naidu-led Telugu Desam Party severed its four-year alliance with NDA over the refusal of special status to Andhra Pradesh. The BJP had assured the TDP on providing the “monetary equivalent” of a special category state to Andhra, while maintaining that it would not be able to grant “special status” as this was restricted, by the 14th Finance Commission, to the three hill states and those in the Northeast.
The development following the resignation of two of the TDP’s ministers — P Ashok Gajapati Raju and Y S Chowdary — from the Union Cabinet. Accusing the BJP of resorting to “collusion politics”, Naidu said “BJP allies are fighting for their rights in Parliament” but the Prime Minister does not have time to address their concerns.
Maharashtra: Shiv Sena
Partners for more than a quarter century, the Shiv Sena quit the NDA last year following differences with the BJP over sharing the chief ministerial post in Maharashtra on a rotational basis. Even though Shiv Sena and BJP had fought the Maharashtra polls together, the Uddhav Thackeray-led party joined hands with Congress and NCP to form the government. While the BJP was adamant on sticking with Devendra Fadnavis as the CM, Sena asked its alliance partner to stick to the 50:50 formula agreed upon before polls which promised a Sena chief minister in Maharashtra.
Punjab: Shiromani Akali Dal
One of the oldest allies of the BJP and a founding member of the NDA, the SAD walked out of the NDA in September in protest against the contentious farm laws pushed through Parliament by the Modi government. The development came days after party leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal resigned in protest as Minister of Food Processing Industries.
SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal had then said the NDA had lost credibility and was an alliance “just in name”. “For the last 7, 8, 10 years or so, NDA is just in name. There is nothing in the NDA. No discussion, no planning, no meetings. I don’t remember a day in the last 10 years when the Prime Minister called an NDA meeting for lunch to discuss what they have in mind. Alliances should not be on paper… Before this, during Vajpayee’s time, there used to be a proper relationship,” Badal had told The Indian Express.
Bihar: Rashtriya Lok Samata Party
In 2018, RLSP chief and then HRD Minister of State Upendra Kushwaha resigned from the Union council of ministers and walked out of the ruling alliance following a fallout with the BJP over seat-sharing in Bihar for the Lok Sabha elections. In his resignation letter sent to Narendra Modi, Kushwaha said he felt “dejected, betrayed” by the Prime Minister’s leadership. He also hit out at the NDA government, its functioning and the influence of the RSS while calling the promise of providing a special package to Bihar the “biggest jumla”.
Bihar: Lok Janshakti Party
After weeks of hectic parleys over seat sharing, the LJP walked out of the ruling JD(U)-BJP alliance in Bihar just ahead of the elections even though the party has repeatedly maintained its pact with BJP at the Centre was “firm”. While Chirag Paswan has said the split for the Bihar polls was due to “ideological differences” with the JD(U), the party was also miffed at being allotted a lower number of seats to contest. During the poll campaign, the LJP has consciously avoided attacks on the BJP, claiming that the next Bihar government would be a “BJP-LJP government”.
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