Chandigarh, February 12
While Nitish Kumar’s JD-U is “officially in” and Jayant Chaudhary’s RLD “almost in” the BJP-led NDA, all eyes are on the TDP in Andhra Pradesh and the Shiromani Akali Dal in Punjab.
Though the BJP’s Punjab unit is said to be “not interested” in an alliance with the Akali Dal, sources say the central leadership “is open to the idea keeping in mind the ruling dispensation (the Aam Aadmi Party) and the prevailing situation in the state.”
As Union Home Minister Amit Shah recently pointed out, the BJP “does not believe in family planning in politics and always welcomes new allies”. Sources, in fact, add that if the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena faction also wants to return, the BJP will be “quite okay” with the situation. “Uddhav has always been close to the RSS, BJP's ideological fountainhead. Besides, who said what and when is immaterial in politics, a game of possibilities where there are no permanent friends or foes here,” add observers.
Speaking at an event on the possibility of the RLD, SAD and other regional parties joining the NDA, Shah said the BJP “always wants the alliance to grow and we always welcome new allies. Our ideology has remained the same since the days of Jan Sangh. Those who like to join us can come”.
Politics is about making agreements, gaining psychological edge and creating favourable perceptions, add observers.
Akali Dal and farmers’ agitation
Whether farmers’ agitation 2.0 will impact the possibility of the two parties coming together in Punjab remains to be seen. Sukhbir Badal-led SAD ejected from the NDA in September 2020 over the now-scrapped three farm laws.
However, much has changed since then.
Though the talks between the two reportedly received a setback as “the BJP refused to play junior ally of SAD in Punjab”, observers say politics was also about “grandstanding and one-upmanship” and that these things take time.
The SAD-BJP alliance came into existence in the mid-1990s. However, at the peak of the farmers’ movement, the SAD walked out of the NDA and the two parties contested the 2022 Assembly elections separately, suffering a crushing defeat.
The next few days are important as the direction of farmers’ protest will decide what happens in Punjab, say sources.
Meanwhile, as Shah said “there are normally two reasons why they (parties) leave. It is because of a certain incident or it is because of the political equation of a particular state. But the BJP never sought separation from any party. The BJP always maintained the coalition dharma”.
BJP and RLD
Observers say the BJP had it in it to win western UP without RLD and Jayant Chaudhury. However, politics is also about perceptions and having the RLD in the NDA is more than winning a couple of more seats.
The RLD’s departure from the INDIA alliance is also expected to hurt its two existing allies in UP, the Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party and the Congress, more than benefit the BJP.
It will give a certain psychological edge to the BJP and add to favourable perceptions. Apart from electoral gains, the BJP is also hoping to impact the ongoing farmers’ agitation. Bharat Ratna to Jayant's grandfather Chaudhary Charan Singh is being seen as a setback for farmers’ protest 2.0, they add.
TDP and three-way alliance
Observers say while Prime Minister Narendra Modi is “popular” in the region—Andhra Pradesh and Telangana both—the BJP’s problem is lack of grassroots support and necessary machinery. This is where leaders like N Chandrababu Naidu come in. On the possibility of the BJP joining hands with the TDP, which left the NDA in 2018, or Jagan Mohan Reddy-led YSR Congress, Shah said “…wait for some time, everything will be clear for all.”
“When the BJP and the TDP are not together, both sides get impacted adversely, this Naidu has also realised over the years,” say observers.
Jana Sena Party (JSP) president Pawan Kalyan is friendly with both the TDP and the BJP, making it worthwhile for all the three players to fight together as one team in Andhra Pradesh.
Will AIADMK also return
Shah’s remarks that “all options are open” evoked sharp reactions from the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu.
Former AIADMK minister D Jayakumar said the AIADMK doors were shut for the BJP and that there was no possibility of revival of poll ties with the BJP even if “action” was taken against BJP state president Annamalai.
“Our doors are shut for the BJP. The BJP can keep its door open. We have shut the door so that the BJP does not enter. That is our stand,” Jayakumar was quoted as saying.
However, former CM and ousted AIADMK leader O Panneerselvam said Shah’s remarks reflected his magnanimity. Panneerselvam said his group was a part of the NDA and the alliance would return to power at the Centre with its own majority. “We have not parted ways (with the NDA), EPS (AIADMK general secretary Edappadi K Palaniswami) has,” he said.
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