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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2769

Grumbling Allies Should Worry BJP

By Tushar Charan - Syndicate Features

The talk of the coalition era coming to an end at the Centre is an illusion created by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party after it won an impressive majority in the last Lok Sabha poll. It was an image building exercise when the BJP agreed to continue the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) though it did not need support of any other party when it formed the government under the leadership of Narendra Modi in May 2014.

Now nearing two years of its rule at the Centre, the BJP should be worrying about its sullen allies rather than continue to gloat over its 282 seats in the 542-member Lok Sabha. The party looks anything but invincible as it prepares for tough poll battles in five state assemblies over the next few months. It is already being speculated that of the five states slated to go to the polls, the BJP cannot expect a good show in Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and West Bengal. Its chances in Assam are said to be 50-50 at best while in Punjab the anti-incumbency factor stares the NDA in the face.

Not the least reason for a perceived dent in the popularity of the prime minister and his party has been the eruption of a whole lot of controversies on issues that have taken the focus off the development plank Modi and his party had spoken about prior to the Lok Sabha polls. The culprits in most cases were members of the BJP although contributions to the controversies had also come from the allies.

The BJP management of these issues was thoroughly incompetent. The alliance partners were able to defy the BJP diktats, if any, and could think of arm twisting the dominant force in the NDA. The BJP has wrongly assumed that display of arrogance and bullying would scare both the Opposition parties and the grumbling NDA partners. The BJP deceives itself by believing that the spate of controversies did not affect it adversely. It can scarcely benefit a political party that frequently finds itself embroiled in controversies. It benefits even less when some of the senior leaders of the party ventilate their grievances or criticism openly and the BJP turns a deaf ear to them.

The critical voices heard from its two oldest allies, the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and the Siromani Akali Dal in Punjab, have looked rather threatening for the NDA. The alliance with PDP in Jammu and Kashmir, much hailed at the time, looks to be in tatters. The J&K alliance was a shotgun marriage, a result of the BJP ambition to taste power in territories where it had always looked weak. It had taken months to arrange that marriage then the BJP struggled to save a divorce. The BJP had no strategy to meet the PDP ‘terms and conditions’ for continuing the alliance in the state.

The ‘friends’ in Andhra Pradesh may not have been vociferous but have conveyed their discomfort at the BJP way of functioning, including its ambiguous stand on reservations, attitude towards Dalits and obsession with the dietary habits of people.

The quest for finding new allies has taken the BJP on untested routes. The new friends in Assam have been Congress turncoats who, no doubt, will not hesitate to do another somersault whenever they find it suitable. In the neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh, a sensitive border state, the new found admirers of the BJP belong to the tribe of defectors who are notorious for floating from one party to another.

A common grouse heard from BJP allies has been the inaccessibility of the top BJP leadership which behaves like the Big Brother. The allies are not kept in the loop when many important decisions are taken. The allies are unable to make the dominant partner in the NDA heed to their suggestions.

The Shiv Sena ridicules the BJP leadership on Hindutva issues and regularly embarrasses the BJP government at the Centre by its diatribe against the minorities and Pakistan. The BJP has not been able to sell to the Shiv Sena its Pakistan policy, probably because it has never felt the need to consult it. The Shiv Sena, on its part, says that sometimes it wonders if it is a partner in BJP-led alliance at the Centre.

But the disquiet within the NDA also stems from the rough treatment that the BJP receives in states where it is the junior partner in the alliance. Punjab is one state where the BJP is in business largely courtesy the Akali Dal which shows little respect for its BJP partners. In fact, of all the allies within the NDA, it is the BJP-SAD ties in Punjab that seem to be under the most severe strain.

The central BJP leadership has decided that the alliance in Punjab would continue but the cadres and leadership of the BJP in Punjab is clearly not pleased with the decision. In the event of the SAD-BJP combine losing the assembly poll, as they well might, the BJP is likely to be the greater loser because of its thinner support base in the state.

Although the outcome of the assembly poll in Punjab cannot be foreseen clearly because of the entry of an untried third factor, the Aam Admi Party, it is reasonable to assume that there is widespread resentment against the Parkash Singh Badal government in the state. Its record in governance has been poor, making it highly unpopular.

The ruling ‘family’ has been accused of accumulating personal wealth and encouraging rough behaviour by their followers and indulging in wasteful expenditure in a heavily cash strapped state. There is danger of the Sikh separatist militancy returning to the state, unemployment is rising, agriculture performance has gone down, farmers are under stress, smuggling in the border state is assuming alarming proportions and, above all, Punjab is in the grip of rampant drug trafficking which poses both health and security issues.

The BJP has been reduced to being a silent and passive spectator in Punjab. What irks the Punjab BJP is that their leadership at the Centre does not listen to it when the faults of the Akalis are brought to their notice. The BJP seems to have decided to let the Akalis steamroll its state unit, as if to show that the BJP does not play the Big Brother role.

- Asian Tribune -

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