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Disgruntled alliances send out alert signals to BJP

Saturday, February 10, 2018
By Prakash Bal Joshi

With the alliance politics becoming part of Indian polity over two decades, no political party can ignore importance of forging pre-poll alliances to garner votes. The Bharatiya Janata Party which emerged as the single largest party in 2014 and got majority on its own is also aware of perils of neglecting poll partners.

The BJP which leads the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government in Delhi which is in election mode for 2019 general elections, can ill-afford to ignore its alliance partners who fought last elections together. The Congress, which had remained the major ruling party for decades and successfully run United Progressive Alliance successfully for two terms is also in the process of consolidating its poll alliances to avoid split of anti-BJP votes.

Alliance politics also means sharing of power with the alliance partner if the alliance comes to power and this is ticklish issue as there is no fixed parameters as power is very complex issue. Some of the BJP alliance partners are not happy and they are sending distress signals openly opposing the BJP, threatening to go on their own by breaking their alliance with the BJP for the coming general elections.

Central issues
Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray held a Sena conclave in Mumbai and announced that his party would fight on his own in the 2019 parliamentary and assembly elections. The Sena has been critical for the last two years   lambasting the BJP on many central issues.

The Shiv Sena has the longest poll alliance with the BJP based on the issue of aggressive Hindutva Sabha elections on its own. It had fought the last elections as a NDA partner but later during the assembly elections held in 2014 it contested elections on its own as seat-sharing formula did not work. The Sena decision is bound to make impact in Maharashtra as the opposition Congress Party and Sharad Pawar led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) are trying to forge alliance which broke in 2014. They have realised that due to their fight over securing secular votes, the BJP-Shiv Sena got benefit and came to power.

Actually, the BJP will need more alliances in South than in North as parameters of power politics in South is different. The Telugu Desam Party led by Chandrababu Naidu in already up in arms and the BJP had to do lot of damage control to keep the TDP away from announcing its final break up.  The party has been demanding special status for the state and financial support, but nothing has been coming from the Centre. The Congress is no longer main rival of the TDP which is under strain to show that it could do something real for the Telangana state.  The TDP is aware of growing influence of the YSR Congress Party led by Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy. The BJP floor managers seem to be in touch with the merging party led by Jaganmohan making Chandrababu Naidu suspicious of the development. Obviously, these are dangerous games as no one knows how voters will react to such formation of new alliances. Naidu may not ultimately break the alliance with the BJP but he is at present putting on lot of pressure on the BJP led Central government. During Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s time he was one of the major leaders of the NDA alliance and could bring in lots of funds for Hyderabad and other parts of the state. having emerged as a powerful political player.

Along with the Shiv Sena and TDP, in Punjab the Shiromani Akali Dal has also began putting pressure on the Union government for more support for the state. The BJP seems to be exploring possibility of treading on its own knowing fully well that it is not feasible.  

In most cases, the regional allies find it difficult to remain ally at national level but they compete with each other at the state level for expanding their respective influence. The Shiv Sena and the BJP have same saffron constituency and when both wants to expand their reach, they grow at each other’s expense creating new tensions in their relationship. The Sena got feeling of neglect when it failed get what they wanted at the time of formation of the government in Delhi.

The situation now is totally different. In Punjab the political space of the BJP and the Akali Dal are separate and does not overlap. However, the tension has been created due to the feeling the Akali Dal got of neglect by the Union government. The BJP does not have any choice in Punjab and it will have taken course correction measures to pacify ruffled feather of its poll ally.

The BJP floor managers have become weary of some of their allies who keep on pressing their demands if one is accepted then they come with more. It is difficult situation to handle as basically it is realignment of political forces taking place in the country where regional parties are reassessing their positions in changing scenario. The main question they ask is whether there is any dent in the popularity of crowd puller for the BJP – Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The performance of the NDA government and the influence of the main crowd puller are two important fulcrums on which fate of the NDA is depending.

Regional alliance
It is also not easy for the regional allies of the BJP to break the alliance and go separate way. The parties like the Shiv Sena can walk away from the NDA but will not be comfortable with the Congress led UPA since the party exists on the issue of aggressive Hindutva and ethos of Maharashtra. Naidu who was once convenor of the NDA may find it difficult to join new anti-BJP alliance. Some of these regional parties will try to contest on their own on the issue of regional pride and prosperity. They will evaluate their strength by fighting on their own and on the basis of outcome of the elections they will be open for post-poll alliances. It will be hard bargaining for power which will be camouflaged in the garb of ideology and high moral altitude. They would like a hung parliament so that they can bargain more and get their pond of flesh. The Congress which run many minority governments have excelled in running coalition governments. Unless the BJP keeps its allies in good book, it will be difficult task for the BJP to come back on its own in Parliament. The BJP will have to be more accommodative to pacify its own allies who have raised banner of revolt.

While BJP is struggling to accommodate and pacify its own allies’, the situation in the opposition camp is also not different. The affairs of the Congress led UPA are equally affected by indecision of their own alliance partners. The political line suggested by Sitaram Yechury to have a prepoll alliance with the Congress has been shot down by the hardliners in the CPM. The left parties will have their own front and contest elections on their own in West Bengal and Kerala. There was heated debate in the central committee before the proposal was shot down. The NCP which has been blowing hot and cold has finally decided to align with the Congress. The issue of leadership of the UPA is also under discussion.

Much will depend on results of the coming assembly elections in Karnataka. Battle lines will become clear after the results are out.

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