By Kalyani Shankar
The 25-year-old Shiv Sena-BJP break up in Maharashtra confirms the long-term plan of the BJP to go beyond the allies and emerge a dominant national party eclipsing others. In election rallies in both Maharashtra and Haryana, Prime Minister Narendra Modi stressed the end of the coalition era in Indian politics to stress this point.
Narendra Modi as well as the BJP chief Amit Shah are moving quickly to occupy the political vacuum left by the Congress party which faced a humiliating defeat not only in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls but also in the subsequent two Assembly polls. Sure enough, the BJP may not immediately dump its partners but there is no doubt that the allies have lost their clout as well as bargaining power in the absence of their relevance for the survival of Modi government.
There was a time when the BJP was untouchable to many parties and it was Atal Behari Vajpayee, the liberal face of the party who encouraged allies in the late nineties and even formed the BJP led NDA government of 24 partners in 1998. Interestingly even the Modi led NDA today boasts of 29 partners of which two have already left. The allies were sought before the 2014 polls when the BJP was not sure of getting a majority on its own. The BJP is now adopting a new strategy that instead of going for alliance it inducts important leaders from other parties like Birendra Singh (Congress), Rao Inderjit Singh (Congress), Ram Kripal Yadav (RJD), Kushwaha (Rashtriya Lok Samata Party) and Ajatha Shathru. (Congress).
After Modi appeared in the national scene things began to change. The first signal came when the JD (U) parted company with the saffron party. The gamble paid off for the BJP as it performed exceedingly well in Bihar and elsewhere while the JD (U) was humiliated. A demoralized Nitish Kumar was willing to even align with his bitter enemy Lalu Prasad Yadav and the unity helped them win byelections.
After the Modi government was formed, this trend of dispensing with allies became more evident. Emboldened by Modi’s success, the party decided to go it alone in both Maharashtra and Haryana and the gamble paid off once again. It was despite the fact that in both the states the BJP did not have any charismatic leaders to project as the chief ministerial candidate. In both the states, the BJP has formed the government after a creditable win.
The BJP parted company with Haryana Jan hit Congress led by Kuldip Bishnoi despite the fact that the BJP-HJC combine had won 7 out of the 10 seats and polled 40.9 per cent of the votes. The BJP’s gamble paid off once again as the BJP itself did not expect such good results in Haryana where it formed the government with a massive majority.
It was a bold gamble for the BJP to break up with its longest ally Shiv Sena in Maharashtra. While BJP leader L K Advani would have liked the alliance to continue, he has no voice in the present Modi dispensation. Also Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray had burnt his boats by criticizing Amit Shah and Modi during the campaign. The alliance won 42 of the 48 Lok Sabha seats in the State and registered a lead in as many as 231 Assembly segments. BJP won 23 Lok Sabha seats, while its alliance partners Shiv Sena and Swabhimani Paksha won 18 and 1 respectively. Had the Sena-BJP continued their alliance in the Assembly polls, they would have swept the polls. But it was advantage BJP as it has now emerged as the dominant party from a junior partner in the state and Sena has been pushed to the second position.
Things are not looking good between the BJP and another long time ally SAD. The state BJP chief’s statements in Punjab indicate that the BJP could soon dump the Akali Dal too. The party is upset that the SAD chief Parkash Singh Badal had campaigned in the recent Assembly polls for the INLD. Modi also has not offered the SAD more cabinet berths as he had done in the case of TDP. Except the lone minister of state (independent charge) Harsimrat Badal, the daughter in law of the Punjab CM, there is no representation for the Akali Dal in the council of ministers.
In the south, the BJP had been making efforts to find a foothold and was able to do so only in Karnataka where it formed its first government in the south in 2008 but lost the state in the Assembly polls. The BJP had to team up with smaller regional allies to make some impact but winning two seats in 2014 Lok Sabha has given the party some confidence.
In the neighboring Tamil Nadu, the conviction of AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa in the disproportionate assets case, the DMK’s problems and Congress’s disappearance, indicate that the BJP was readying for a life without its NDA partners. The denial of invitations to NDA allies in Tamil Nadu — Vaiko and Captain Vijayakanth to the Modi’s dinner to NDA allies some time ago is also being seen as a slight to the smaller regional parties.
No doubt the single party rule will bring back political stability and quicker decision -making process but it is too soon to conclude that the coalition era has ended. Already there are murmurs that the BJP is developing the Congress’ high-command culture with Modi being seen as nominating chief ministers of his choice in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Haryana and Goa. While the BJP may be enthused by its current status as the dominant party but allies that seem like a burden today may someday become vital to success if the polity gets fractured again. (IPA Service)