The BJP’s rise inevitably complicates ties with allies
After Narendra Modi has won a second term, the government is officially that of the NDA, but there is no doubt that it is a truly BJP government, with the party committed to pursuing its ideological agendaUpdated: Sep 19, 2019 18:04 IST
To understand how much Indian politics has evolved, compare three versions of National Democratic Alliance (NDA) — the NDA of 1998, when it was originally conceived with Atal Bihari Vajpayee as the face; the NDA of 2014, when Narendra Modi became the mascot of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP); and the NDA of 2019, after its Lok Sabha election victory. The BJP has, of course, remained the anchor of the alliance throughout. But in the 1990s, it was a senior partner, which needed allies to be able to form the government. Power was relatively equally distributed in the coalition. In 2014, when few thought that Mr Modi would actually get a majority, the BJP considered the NDA an important instrument to expand its base and serve as an insurance policy if its own seats fell short. Today, after Mr Modi has won a second term, the government is officially that of the NDA, but there is no doubt that it is a truly BJP government, with the party committed to pursuing its ideological agenda.
This shift in power equations within the NDA has had major implications for the BJP’s relations with its smaller allies. This is now most visible in Maharashtra, which goes to polls soon, and Bihar, which goes to polls next year. In both states, the BJP has had long-standing allies, the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and the Janata Dal (United) in Bihar. While both the parties accepted the BJP’s supremacy at the Centre, in their respective states, the two regional parties have been the senior partner in the past. In Maharashtra, this changed in 2014 — when the BJP was able to get its own leader as chief minister, Devendra Fadnavis. In Bihar, the power distribution has become that of equals between the two parties. And though JD(U)’s Nitish Kumar is the chief minister, the BJP sees itself as more popular.
This churn has produced a fresh power-play. In Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena is still struggling to come to terms with being a junior partner, and is negotiating hard for a better seat-sharing deal and rotational chief ministership. But the BJP is clear that it will not cede leadership. In Bihar, Mr Kumar is not sure whether the BJP will accept him as the CM face of the alliance in 2020, or even offer him equal seats. Within the BJP, there is an ongoing cost-benefit assessment on whether to stay with the JD(U), on what terms, or whether to go it alone and claim leadership. The rise of the BJP as the hegemon, and Mr Modi’s appeal, will continue to affect equations within the NDA.
First Published: Sep 19, 2019 18:04 IST