With JD(U)’s exit in Bihar, NDA loses another key partner

Updated on Aug 10, 2022 01:39 AM IST

Bihar chief minister, Nitish Kumar’s decision to call off the alliance less than two years after the coalition government was sworn in has left the BJP out in the cold.

Janata Dal (United) leader Nitish Kumar with Rashtriya Janata Dal leaders Tejashwi Yadav and Tej Pratap in Patna on Tuesday. (PTI)
Janata Dal (United) leader Nitish Kumar with Rashtriya Janata Dal leaders Tejashwi Yadav and Tej Pratap in Patna on Tuesday. (PTI)

The fissures that appeared in the Bharatiya Janata Party-Janata Dal (United) alliance in Bihar have split open, bringing to an end a coalition government in the state and the exit of yet another partner from the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

Bihar chief minister, Nitish Kumar’s decision to call off the alliance less than two years after the coalition government was sworn in has left the BJP out in the cold. Although the party was not blindsided by Tuesday’s events — the turbulence in ties was out in the open — party leaders were hopeful that the alliance would outlive the current crisis and the government will complete its term till 2025.

The CM’s conspicuous absence from meetings chaired by Prime Minister, Narendra Modi and from the swearing-in ceremony of President Droupadi Murmu;and recent comments by party president Rajiv Ranjan Singh, better known as Lalan Singh, lashing out at the BJP for sidestepping the JDU leadership were all indicators of the coalition tottering.

Weakening NDA

The break-up has again underlined the BJP’s inability to keep its alliance flock together. While senior leaders claim that the party adheres to the principles of partnership and maintains the gathbandan ki maryada (dignity of an alliance), it is battling a perception that the BJP’s expansion comes at the cost of the alliance partners.

A JDU leader said the BJP’s “underhanded” way of appointing RCP Singh as cabinet minister, of allowing Chirag Paswan to eat into the JDU’s vote share by propping candidates (some former BJP leaders) in the assembly polls and the unrestrained comments by the state leaders pushed the CM to steer his party out of the alliance. The party’s decision to induct all the three legislators of the Vikassheel Insaan Party that it had partnered with in Bihar also did not sit well with the JDU.

In recent years, other allies such as the Shiv Sena and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) too have at various times accused the BJP of trying to ride roughshod over the partners, overlooking their political ambition and usurping their space.

In 2020 SAD, one of the BJP’s oldest allies, broke ties with the latter following a showdown over the now repealed farm laws. Party leaders alleged that their concerns about the laws and the ramifications they would have were ignored. “Our party representative in the cabinet (Harsimrat Badal) had flagged these issues but the party leadership did not bother to consult or take our counsel,” said a SAD functionary who asked not to be named.

The SAD’s departure from the NDA was preceded by the Sena’s exit following a disagreement over power sharing in Maharashtra. After the recent split in the Sena, one faction led by CM Eknath Shinde is now back in the NDA fold.

The shrinking of the NDA began in March 2018 when Chandrbabu Naidu’s Telegu Desam Party pulled out two of its ministers Ashok Gajapathi Raju and YS Chaudhary from the Modi cabinet and walked out of the alliance. The TDP had been the BJP’s only ally in the southern state and the decision to part ways was precipitated by the union government’s decision of not granting special category status to Andhra Pradesh.

Also Read | Bihar crisis sets back BJP’s plan for expansion

In June 2018, the BJP called off its alliance with the PDP and brought the curtains down on the three-year old coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir. The alliance of ideologically polarised partners was called off on account of grave differences on governance issues.

The AIADMK in Tamil Nadu is the party’s ally currently, but in June senior leader C Ponnaiyan, who is also the party’s organisational secretary, accused the union government of “stealing” the state’s revenues and of pursuing “anti-Tamil” policies. He also blamed the party for the AIADMK’s defeat as its polarizing narrative drove the minority voters away.

Ponnaiyan’s outburst was followed by BJP leaders assuring that the party’s expansion will not come at the cost of the AIADMK, but unrest in the cadre has begun to take shape. Speaking on condition of anonymity, an AIADMK leader said there is concern among the cadre that the BJP is trying to dislodge them from the position of principal opposition.

“We are partnering with the BJP that does not have a base in Tamil Nadu, so it is natural that we will have a say in decision making with regard elections and other programmes. But the state president’s (K Annamalai) statements have set off some concerns…” the leader said. In the past AIADMK had made public its displeasure at the use of its founder MG Ramachandran’s photograph for the Vel Yatra launched by the BJP.

Of the regional parties, the YSRCP and the Biju Janata Dal, considered friendly to the BJP, have drawn the line at joining the alliance and limited their support to legislative business and more recently backed the NDA nominees for the Presidential and Vice Presidential polls.

“There is a difference in perceiving and doing…The BJP played a junior partner to the SAD and the Shiv Sena for years, even though its strike rate was better than both. In Punjab we were limited to the urban spaces. In Maharashtra when the alliance broke over power sharing agreement, there was no deal to have a rotational CM. The slogan was Upar Narendra, neeche Devendra (PM Modi at the centre, Devendra Fadnavis at the state) so where was the question of betrayal,” a Maharashtra based BJP leader said.

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    Smriti covers an intersection of politics and governance. Having spent over a decade in journalism, she combines old fashioned leg work with modern story telling tools.

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