There seems to be no end to the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) troubles with allies—the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) was the latest to break ties with the party in Assam over the Citizenship Bill on Monday.
The ruling party, which looked like an invincible political force until a few months ago, seems to be scrambling to keep its political alliances intact ahead of the general election later this year. In some cases, the breakdown of ties have helped bring foes together, showing that it is possible for smaller parties to disrupt the BJP’s brand of politics.
Last month, Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP) leader Upendra Kushwaha exited the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), saying that he felt “betrayed” by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership.
Despite its troubles, the BJP is maintaining a defiant face.
After Kushwaha’s exit, BJP general secretary Ram Madhav was quoted as saying by NDTV, “It is true that certain smaller allies like Kushwaha have decided to leave us, but we are working on bringing new allies into our fold, especially in south India and the eastern India.”
Political analyst Sajjan Kumar told HuffPost India that most BJP allies have a pragmatic approach—they got on to the bandwagon when there was a BJP ascendency.
“However, the moment they realise that BJP may not be the dominant party in terms of number of seats, they will switch to whoever they think can be the single largest party,” he said.
Smaller parties disgruntled
Smaller parties have also warned the BJP to give them respect and change its attitude towards them.
NDA constituent Apna Dal (Sonelal) on Monday warned that it would go to “any extent” if the BJP does not change its attitude to smaller parties in the ruling coalition.
“Our party (Apna Dal-S) has been in alliance with the BJP since 2014 and is discharging the alliance dharma with full honesty. But in Uttar Pradesh, it is not at all getting the respect which it deserves,” Apna Dal-S president Ashish Patel was quoted as saying by PTI.
The party had raised the same concern last month as well, with Patel saying its workers are not given due importance by the bigger allies. According to Hindustan Times, senior leader and union minister of state for health Anupriya Patel also skipped a programme of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
The Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP), according to The Indian Express, has given a similar warning to the saffron party. SBSP chief Om Prakash Rajbhar told The Indian Express that the BJP gets votes with help from allies every time there is an election and later, they refuse to take the allies along.
“The Apna Dal has come to know this now but I know it for last 21 months. Be it the Shiv Sena, Upendra Kushwaha or Ram Vilas Paswan, none of them are in an understanding with the BJP at present,” he added.
Neelanjan Sircar, a senior fellow at the Centre For Policy Research, said that while it is difficult to know what is happening in terms of high-level discussions, it is very natural for smaller partners to take an extreme stance when the larger partner seems to be in trouble.
“This is because they can get much more from the larger partner because of a sense of fear and an understanding that the other partner is crucial to win,” he said.
The feud with Shiv Sena
The disagreements between allies Shiv Sena and the BJP are played out in public. The Sena has been regularly hitting out at the BJP despite being part of the government in the state and the centre. Its leaders have often said they would contest the next polls on their own.
In a veiled warning to Shiv Sena, BJP president Amit Shah had said last week that if an alliance happened, the party would ensure victory for its allies, but if it did not, the party will thrash its former allies in the coming Lok Sabha polls.
Reacting to the statements, the Shiv Sena said it was ready to take on whoever challenges it. According to News18, Shah on Monday asked party workers to prepare to fight alone in the Maharashtra assembly polls.
Some allies are already out
The Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in March last year left the NDA citing denial of special category status to Andhra Pradesh.
In June, the BJP walked out of an alliance with the PDP in Jammu and Kashmir, saying it has become impossible to continue in the government in view of the growing radicalism and terrorism in the state. The decision came as a surprise to the PDP, and has brought it closer to bitter rival National Conference.
Hindustani Awami Morcha-Secular (HAM-S) president Jitan Ram Manjhi had also announced his decision to quit NDA in February last year. He cited his neglect by the NDA as the reason to part ways, The Times of India had reported.
Not toeing the line
The BJP has also failed to get its allies to toe the line on some major decisions.
The Shiv Sena and the JD(U) have said that they will not support the government’s Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016. JD(U) national general secretary Sanjay Verma was quoted as saying by The Times of India that his party will oppose the bill because it will do no good to the identity and culture of Assam.
The JD(U) is also firm in its opposition to a bill against triple talaq. The BJP has sought to downplay the divergent stance taken by the JD(U), saying there is “no difference of opinion within the NDA on the issue of development”.
The political engineering with which the BJP came to power in 2014 seems to be collapsing ahead of the 2019 general elections. While some allies have already left its fold, others are making their concerns public.
(With PTI inputs)