With the Shiromani Akali Dal snapping its ties with the BJP, the saffron party has lost its by far two most dependable and ideologically-bound allies within a year even as its own political strength has risen like never before under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The Akali Dal’s departure from the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) will hardly affect the Modi government but it does create a political void for the BJP in the border state of Punjab where its alliance with the Akalis was seen as much a social as a political statement with the two parties drawing support from two diverse blocs of voters.
Political watchers believe that the BJP may cultivate a section of disgruntled Akalis, who have been vocal against the leadership of Sukhbir Singh Badal, in the state, but protests by farmers against the Centre’s farm reform bills and most political parties’ support to them have made its job difficult.
The SAD has severed its close to a two-and-a-half-decade-old alliance with the BJP in protest against these bills.
Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut took a swipe at the BJP, saying that he does not consider the alliance led by the saffron party as the NDA as his party and the SAD were among its pillars.
The Sena was “forced” to leave the NDA last year against its wishes, he said, in an apparent reference to the BJP not accepting the party’s demand for sharing the chief minister’s post in Maharashtra.
It then joined hands with the opposition alliance of the Congress and the NCP in November and its president Uddhav Thackeray was sworn in as chief minister.
The BJP, on its part, has blamed “political compulsion” for the SAD’s departure and had accused the Sena of entering into an “unholy alliance” for its “greed” of power.
The decision of its two oldest allies to walk out means that Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who is also president of the JD(U), is now the oldest BJP ally besides being the most powerful.
Except for the period between 2013-2017, he has been with the BJP and the face of the NDA in Bihar.
A BJP leader said the departure of both allies may have been unfortunate as they had been with the party through thick and thin, but added that the saffron party could not be blamed for pursuing its “agenda of governance” which, he added, was at the root of both fallouts.
“Neither could the BJP have offered the CM’s chair to the Sena nor could it roll back its agenda of agriculture reforms,” he said.
The BJP leadership has been pragmatic in accommodating its allies, he claimed, noting as to how it let go of its sitting seats to finalise a seat-sharing deal with the JD(U) in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
In the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls, the Telugu Desam Party had also broken its alliance with the BJP over the issue of special status for Andhra Pradesh.
The TDP was, however, routed in the assembly as well as Lok Sabha polls, and the YSR Congress, which has come to power in the state and won most seats in Lok Sabha too, has been backing the Modi government in Parliament over many issues without entering into a formal tie-up.