BJP president Rajnath Singh’s claim that his party will win 272 seats on its own cannot be happy news for the sizeable number of allies the party has gathered. More so, because this time they, by all reckoning, will have to contend with a person, Narendra Modi, who is known to be a tough administrator and highly law-abiding. Going by the hectoring that allies have done in the past, this can be reassuring for those who pin their hopes on the good governance promised by Mr Modi.
The Telugu Desam Party (TDP), which supported the NDA government from outside from 1998 to 2004, had a strong grip on the administration. And it was able to get from the Vajpayee government its pound of flesh. AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa created difficulties for the government no end during the one year her party was part of the NDA. However, despite Mr Modi’s strong persona, some allies such as the MDMK may make a pitch for the BJP’s support on the issue of the Sri Lankan Tamils, much in the same way the DMK did with the Manmohan Singh government and eventually withdrew support. Given the political architecture, the TDP, which first supported Telangana and then doubled back, may try to push for financial packages for the Seemandhra region, where it is said to have good political support. But it may not be able to push its claims too far because of the political wilderness it has been in for the past 10 years.
The history of alliances over 15 years holds out the story of a weakening of the Congress and the rise of the BJP. In 1996, when it was in power for two weeks or so, the BJP realised the impossibility of coming to power at the Centre without allies. The acceptability of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the BJP’s putting aside the contentious issues of the uniform civil code, Article 370 of the Constitution pertaining to Jammu and Kashmir, and the Ram temple in Ayodhya helped in the process of consolidating alliances. That the allies did not stick together was more a matter of a sense of the anti-incumbency factor than anything else. In 2004 too, the Congress could come to power with the help of allies, not all of whom were highly trustworthy and some, like the Left, were with an ideological baggage that appeared outdated. When the Left was out of the scene, the Trinamool Congress, led by Mamata Banerjee, proved no better. The BJP too had a rift with the JD(U) after an 18-year alliance and this made it possible for Lalu Prasad to regain his lost ground.
With the emergence of Mr Modi the wheel seems to be turning again. Only it remains to be seen whether it can bring about a new phase in Indian politics.