By Arun Srivastava
It is an open secret that BJP does not depend on the strength of its allies for survival at the Centre, but it will have to depend on their support during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The politics of partnership is crucial for swaying the mood of the voters. The BJP may succeed in neutralising the anger of its allies, but the rumblings just ahead of the crucial election would certainly have an adverse impact on the psyche of the people. The strains will show on the relationship of the BJP and the allies. One thing is absolutely clear that the BJP has turned vulnerable to the pressures from its allies, who have also come to comprehend this element, which is clearly manifest in some of the less important allies ramping up pressure on the BJP.
Shiv Sena has been blowing hot and cold from the day the alliance came to power in Maharashtra. But in recent times it has intensified. The element of distrust has crept in their relations. Sena has already made its intention public to go it alone at the polls. This simply underlines hardening of its attitude and approach towards the BJP. The Sena adopting the confrontational path should not come as surprise. No doubt the element of share in power has been a major factor, and the Sena primarily intends to retrieve its space encroached by the BJP.
In Punjab, the drifting away of the Shiromani Akali Dal from BJP has not come as a surprise. The BJP has faced the public ire due to the callousness of the Akali Dal in tackling the menace of drugs and smuggling. The Congress coming back to power has resulted in the erosion of the support base of the BJP. The BJP ought to rethink the terms for alliances and side by side it must rework its relationships with its allies if it wants to head a strong coalition of forces in 2019, which does not appear to be easy.
The Akali Dal has cautioned the BJP against riding roughshod over the interests of its allies and urged Modi’s party to follow Atal Bihari Vajpayee-like “alliance dharma”. Yet another ally, Rashtriya Lok Samata Party from Bihar has made it known that it may sever its relations with the BJP. Its leader and Union minister Upendra Kushwaha even went a step ahead and recently shared the stage with the leaders of the arch rival RJD.
Telugu Desam Party chief Chandrababu Naidu has also initiated the move to leave the NDA. But the fact is that he has never been sincere. His entire exercise was for public consumption. It was simply an eye wash. Naidu has his own compulsions and lacks in political conviction and guts. His action was more aimed at getting financial help and concessions from the Centre. It completely lacked political dimension. For Naidu political compulsions and imperatives have little relevance.
Through his actions he wanted to pressurise the Modi government to concede to his economic demands. Naidu knows it is politically correct to goad the Modi government and force it to concede to his financial demands. Through his mavericks, he managed to send the message to the Telugu speaking people that his party really was concerned about their needs and requirements. This is the first step towards revitalising its base ahead of the 2019 elections. His call from Dubai and directing his MPs to continue protesting against the Modi government’s ‘betrayal’ of Andhra Pradesh is a clever populist move to win over the trust of the people. It is interesting to watch that just a day after of the protest, finance minister Arun Jaitley assured the TDP that the government was considering its demands and would fulfill the promise of financial assistance to the state. Jaitley has never shown this alacrity in the case of any other state.
The BJP leadership has been resorting to creepy explanations to conceal the development. But a closer look would reveal that the allies are getting disenchanted with the style of functioning of the party leadership, especially resident Amit Shah. There is a common allegation that Shah does not treat alliance partners as equals. He does not even use pleasant words while dealing with them.
BJP”s ‘below-expectation’ performance in the Gujarat polls and the rout in the by-elections in Rajasthan have convinced the allies that Modi’s vote gathering charisma has been on the decline. He might have been resorting to jumlas and gimmicks but these are not cutting much ice. Even the urban support base has started shifting. Some senior BJP leaders also share the view; “Our allies feel that we will not get a majority on our own in 2019 and so they have started asserting themselves”. This perception is making an inroad in the rank and file. Some other members of NDA have also started showing restlessness as the Modi government prepares to face the electorate next year. Coming together of party veterans also has a chilling effect on the party leaders. The leaders nurse the sentiment that formation of a Rashtriya Morcha by Shatrughan Sinha, Yashwant Singh and others might not have any arithmetical impact on the strength of the BJP, but this could shake the conviction and faith of the common voters, specially the middle class..
The BJP had won 282 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. After the recent electoral debacles the effective strength of the party in the Lok Sabha has gone down to 275. Though further decline in the number is not visible at the moment, it is sure to have very adverse impact on the morale of the rank and file. Most of the leaders of the NDA feel the BJP will not be able to repeat its 2014 performance in 2019 and could even fall way short of the halfway mark. In that case the BJP would have to depend on the allies to form the government. Obviously this is the right time to make their importance felt. (IPA Service)