Reshuffle: A disappointment for NDA allies

| | in Oped

The relationship between the BJP and its allies has not been smooth. But if one looks back, the BJP and its partners have had a roller-coaster relationship.  But with the 2019 general election nearing, most NDA allies will need the BJP and vice versa

While much has been said of a woman becoming the first full-time Defence Minister in the Modi Cabinet, there has not been much debate about the disappointment of the 32 allies, who have been left out of power-sharing. There is nothing wrong. After all, it is the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which has the control of the  National Democratic Alliance (NDA). But, expectations of the allies were really high.

It is known that the relationship between the BJP and its allies has not been very smooth. While some of the long-term allies, like the Shiv Sena, the Shiromani Akali Dal and the Telugu Desam Party, have been complaining about their treatment, the BJP has not done much to assuage their feelings. At various times, Telugu Desam Party president Chandrababu Naidu, and Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal, have expressed their unhappiness openly.

The Shiv Sena, the oldest ally of the BJP, has had a running battle with the BJP on various issues both in Maharashtra and New Delhi. Vibes from the Shiv Sena have been cold ever since the BJP won most seats in the 2014 Assembly election in Maharashtra. Shiv Sena spokesman, Sanjay Raut said, “It is possible that the BJP is arrogant about its majority in the Lok Sabha because of which it has stopped consultations. We don’t pay attention to such issues. It is the BJP’s majority so the party should run the Government the way it wants.”

The latest to join this club was the Janata Dal (United) which returned to the NDA fold recently. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who has severed connections with other partners of the grand alliance which defeated the BJP in 2015 Assembly poll, is a disappointed man as he was hoping for some power sharing at the Centre.

The JD(U) reaction was muted. “Nobody is interested in talking to us about such crucial issues

anymore. There was absolutely no discussion or exchange of ideas about the issue within the NDA. It is for the BJP to decide if they want to consult old alliance partners on crucial issues or not. The BJP has the majority and may be they don’t want to discuss important issues with us,” said JD (U) leader KC  Tyagi.

The united All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), which is waiting to join the NDA, was also hoping for two Cabinet berths so that internal power sharing problem within the party could be resolved, but is

now disappointed.

If one looks back, the BJP and its partners have had a roller-coaster relationship all along. The NDA came into being in 1998 during the time of Atal Bihari Vajpayee as the BJP wanted to prove its acceptability in a coalition politics.

Vajpayee was able to lead a 24- partner coalition, although AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa brought down his Government within 13 months. However, the coalition continued with political realignment and Vajpayee came back to power. Though the NDA lost power from 2004 to 2014, the front continued as some of them like the Telugu Desam Party, the Shiv Sena, the Shiromani Akali Dal and other anti-Congress parties had nowhere to go and they found it convenient to remain together.

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the NDA in 2014, it had 29 partners, some of them small and he was graceful in accommodating parties like the Shiromani Akali Dal, the Shiv Sena and the Telugu Desam Party by giving them representation in his Cabinet.  However, since then, the allies have been waiting patiently for more representation.

It is not as if the BJP can totally ignore the allies as it needs their support in the Rajya Sabha where the NDA is in minority. The Congress-led Opposition has been blocking several important Bills and Prime Minister Modi needs the support of the allies in getting legislations passed in the upper House.

Moreover, the BJP also needed the allies in the recent presidential and vice presidential elections without whose support, the party would not have been able to get its

nominees elected. Things were smoothened in its second NDA meeting, in July last, ahead of the polls, when the allies endorsed Prime Minister Modi’s policies as well as promised their support to the BJP.

The NDA allies have been demanding the revival of the convener post. Earlier, former Defence Minister George Fernandes, held it during the Vajpayee days, which was later given to Sharad Yadav of the JD(U). At present, there are some leaders like Chandrababu Naidu and Nitish Kumar who are aspiring for the post, but the BJP is mum on this.

Second, the allies want the BJP to have more interaction with them, both for floor coordination as well as other policy issues. They have expressed their discontent on this quite often.

Third, they fear the speed with which the BJP is spreading. The BJP has set its eyes on about 115 seats across the country where it has never won in the past, as part of its strategy for 2019 Lok Sabha poll. They fear that the expansion plan of the BJP in the south, and also the east, might be at their expense and they would like to protect their interests. The growing popularity of the Prime Minister also makes them apprehensive whether their voters would shift to the BJP.

It is likely that nearer the 2019 poll, the BJP would try to mollify them at the time of seat sharing in some of the States where the BJP is a junior partner. For, most of the NDA allies need the BJP and the BJP needs them.

(The writer is a senior political commentator and syndicated columnist)

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