By Kalyani Shankar
While much has been made of a woman becoming the first full-time defence minister in the Modi cabinet, not much is debated about the disappointment of the 32 allies who have been left out of power sharing. There is nothing wrong as after all it is the BJP, which has the control of the NDA but the expectations of the allies were high.
The relationship between the BJP and its allies has not been very smooth. While some of the long-term allies like the Shiv Sena, Akali Dal and Telugu Desam have been complaining about their treatment, the BJP has not done much to assuage their feelings. At various times the Telugu Desam supremo Chandrababu Naidu and the Akali Dal leader Sukhbir Singh Badal had expressed their unhappiness openly.
Shiv Sena, the oldest ally of the BJP has been having a running battle with the BJP on various issues both in Maharashtra and Delhi. Vibes from the Shiv Sena have been cold since the BJP won most seats in the 2014 assembly elections in Maharashtra. The Sena spokesman Sanjay Raut said, “It is possible that the BJP is arrogant about its majority in 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 JD(U) which has returned to the NDA fold recently The Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar who has severed connections with the other partners of the Grand Alliance which defeated the BJP in 2015 Assembly polls 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 majority and may be they don’t want to discuss important issues with us,” JD(U) leader KC Tyagi said.
The united AIADMK, which is waiting to join the NDA was also hoping for two cabinet berths so that the internal power sharing problem within the party could be resolved, is also disappointed.
If one looks back, the BJP and its partners have had 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. He was able to lead a 24- partner coalition although the AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa brought down his government within 13 months. However, the coalition continued with political realignment and Vajpayee came back. Though the NDA lost power from 2004 to 2014, the Front continued as some of them like the Telugu Desam, Shiv Sena, Akali Dal and other anti-Congress parties had nowhere to go and they found it convenient to remain together. When Modi led the NDA in 2014, it had 29 partners, some of them small and he was graceful in accommodating parties like Akali Dal, Shiv Sena and Telugu Desam by giving them representation in his cabinet. However, since then the allies had 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 Sabah where the NDA is in a minority. The Congress led Opposition has been blocking several important Bills and Modi needs the support of the allies in getting the legislative measures passed in the Upper House. Moreover, the BJP 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 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, 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 the Telugu Desam supremo Chandrababu Naidu and Nitish Kumar are aspiring for the post but the BJP is mum on this.
Secondly, 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.
Thirdly, 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. They fear that the expansion plan of the BJP in the South, and 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 polls 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 they need the BJP and the BJP needs them. (IPA Service)