Disgruntled allies

BJP continues to antagonise its coalition partners

Disgruntled allies

With its emphatic victory in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, even better than its 2014 performance, the BJP not only decimated the Opposition but also dwarfed its own allies. The saffron party alone won 303 seats, while only two of its 10-odd alliance partners — the Janata Dal (United) and the Shiv Sena — managed to reach double-digit figures. Emboldened by the massive mandate, the BJP has been trying to ride roughshod over other NDA constituents, but such attempts are being met with stiff resistance. Its oldest ally and fellow Hindutva proponent, the Shiv Sena, broke ranks in November last year after the two parties failed to reach consensus over power-sharing in Maharashtra. Now, another old partner, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), has decided to skip the Delhi Assembly polls due to differences over the Citizenship Amendment Act. Hours after the SAD’s announcement, an apparently unfazed BJP named its candidates on all four seats that were traditionally allotted to the Akalis. There is no love lost between the two parties in neighbouring Haryana, too, where they have been contesting elections separately, even as their ties are under strain in Punjab — a state they ruled together for 10 years in a row.

In Bihar, which goes to the polls later this year, an assertive Nitish Kumar is expected to drive a hard bargain with the BJP. The latter has a history of starting out as a junior partner to regional parties, only to usurp the senior role in due course and enfeeble its ally. A rare exception is the Biju Janata Dal, led by Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik, that has stood up to the saffron party and gone from strength to strength.

The BJP has lost power in five states in a year, while it managed to form the government in Haryana only with the support of the fledgling Jannayak Janata Party. More reversals are likely unless the party reaches out to its embittered allies and regains their trust. Quelling the growing disaffection will be a major challenge for the new party chief, JP Nadda. There is no room for hubris any more.

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