Split with PDP in Jammu and Kashmir another worry for BJP as NDA allies look for options ahead of 2019 polls

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) pulling out of its partnership with the People's Democratic Party (PDP) in Jammu and Kashmir is just the latest example of the troubles within the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). From Jammu and Kashmir to Maharashtra, and from Andhra Pradesh to Bihar, the saffron party has had multiple showdowns with its many political allies.

Indeed, BJP president Amit Shah has been on a mission to reach out to allies who have been critical or expressed dissatisfaction with the manner in which the government has functioned. To try and strengthen the party's position ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Shah met Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray in Mumbai on 6 June purportedly to mollify the latter and convince him to support the BJP in the future.

File image of BJP chief Amit Shah. PTI

File image of BJP chief Amit Shah. PTI

The Sena has been one of the BJP's oldest allies, but the two have clashed repeatedly over the past few years and have been described as "uneasy allies". The latest flashpoint occurred in May over the contentious Nanar refinery project, a 15,000-acre undertaking planned in Nanar village of Ratnagiri district in coastal Konkan region, around 350 kilometres from Mumbai.

A miffed Shiv Sena repeatedly hit out at the BJP for what it called a high-handed attitude of the NDA towards its smaller allies. The relationship had deteriorated to the point where the Sena described it as "post-divorce" in a recent editorial in party mouthpiece Saamana.

"Though the state government is running on Sena's support, it is living a post-divorce life. The Maharashtra government is one of the best examples of how to be together, clearly under coercion, and maintain the 'alliance' even when there is no correspondence with each other," it said.

Party leader Sanjay Raut, who pens the editorials, likened the project to the Ram Temple being destroyed in Ayodhya and a temple of Ravana being erected in its place.

Raut also accused Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis of reneging on his promise that the Nanar project would not continue if locals were opposed to it. "Gujaratis and Marwaris are buying up land in and around Nanar," he said, adding, "The dust of confusion is everywhere in the state. The government has lost itself in the dust."

In November, ahead of the Gujarat Assembly elections, the Sena had snubbed the BJP by declaring they would contest between 50 and 60 seats on their own.

Andhra Pradesh: Telugu Desam Party

In March, Telugu Desam Party chief Chandrababu Naidu quit the Union Cabinet and put the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance on notice. The TDP also withdrew two ministers from the Cabinet after Finance Minister Arun Jaitley rejected the 'special status' category for Andhra Pradesh. Naidu, addressing a press conference in the aftermath of Jaitley's declaration, said he was hurt by the declaration, and said the Centre's unilateral approach made this decision "inevitable".

 

Cartoon by Manjul.

Cartoon by Manjul.

"We have decided to pull out of the Union government because the Centre has failed to meet the demands of the TDP on special status for Andhra Pradesh which was promised at the time of bifurcation, and other demands relating to state's finances," Naidu had told the media after holding consultations with party colleagues.

However, one can argue that the saffron party ought to have seen it coming. In January, Naidu had said, "We are pursuing friendly relations with the BJP due to the coalition dharma, but if they don't want an alliance, we are ready to chart our own course."

Bihar: Janata Dal (United), Lok Janshakti Party, Rashtirya Lok Samata Party

According to a report in Livemint, there seem to be signs of a crisis brewing in Bihar as well, with most of the BJP allies — led by Janata Dal (United) — joining hands against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to demand a greater share of seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

"Nitish Kumar had reached out to Union minister Upendra Kushwaha a few days ago and the two leaders had a detailed conversation about the functioning of the NDA and how the BJP is not giving importance to its allies in Bihar," said a senior Patna-based JD(U) leader on condition of anonymity, according to the report.

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar parting ways with the Mahagathbandhan and returning to the NDA fold seems to have made the BJP's smaller partners nervous. According to a report in Hindustan Times, Hindustani Awami Morcha-Secular (HAM-S) president Jitan Ram Manjhi cut ties with NDA and joined the Rashtriya Janata Dal-led alliance in Bihar. The Manjhi-led party had demanded that the NDA give one seat to its candidate out of the six Rajya Sabha seats during the Bihar elections.

After Manjhi's exit from the NDA, Rashtirya Lok Samata Party national general secretary Abhyanand Suman warned the BJP that smaller parties had concerns about their fate in the coalition, according to a report in News18. "The onus of accommodating and listening our demands is now on the BJP and not the JD(U). Nitish Kumar is a late entrant. When he left the BJP in 2013, we continued our support to them. The BJP leadership must understand this,” he said.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Jun 20, 2018 11:21 AM

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