NEW DELHI/MUMBAI/CHANDIGARH/RANCHI: With the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) exiting the NDA over the farm Bills, the BJP has lost at least four allies in past two years.
The first to quit the NDA was the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in 2018 followed by the Shiv Sena and the All-Jharkhand Students’ Union (AJSU) last year.
All the three exits were bitter, with each of them blaming the BJP of backstabbing and not following the coalition dharma.
So why is the BJP steadily losing friends, some of them decades-old partners? In the maze of charges and counter-charges following the parting of ways, the common thread seems to be the party’s alleged big-brotherly attitude.
“After the SAD’s exit, the BJP is not left with any major ally in the heartland states, except Bihar where it has the JD-U. The BJP should be concerned about the allies breaking ties,” said political analyst Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay.
“There is very little respect being given to the alliance partners. The BJP views the relationship as transactional. Policy issues are decided by a very centralised party. This was seen during the CAA and now with the farm Bills. The BJP has not provided any indication of serious deliberations on issues that affect people’s lives and also the core vote bank of the allies,” he added.
We take a look at what caused allies to break away from the BJP-led alliance.
The major bone of contention was the special package promised to Andhra Pradesh by the UPA-2 during the bifurcation of the state. While the TDP accused the BJP dispensation at the Centre of breaking that promise, the saffron party called the Chandrababu Naidu-led party’s decision to part ways as ‘political opportunism’.
The Centre’s decision in March 2018 to give only Rs 1,200 crore to Andhra, as against Naidu’s demand for a Rs 20,000 crore special package, was the breaking point for the TDP. Naidu’s demand was turned down by then finance minister Arun Jaitley. Subsequently, the TDP broke away and fought the next Lok Sabha and assembly elections on its own.
The Shiv Sena, the BJP’s oldest ally, surprised everyone in November 2019 by parting ways with the BJP and forming the government with the Congress and the NCP, with Uddhav Thackeray becoming chief minister. Despite bickering and differences on a few earlier occasions, too, the glue of Hindutva made both parties stick together. Besides, BJP was earlier ready to play the second fiddle to Sena in Maharashtra.
But this political equation changed in 2014 when the BJP won the 122 seats in the assembly. It became the main player while the Sena — which went alone in the polls and won 68 seats — joined the government as a junior partner without much ‘say’ in the Devendra Fadnavis government.
Uddhav Thackeray sensed that tying up with the BJP was not yielding the desired results. In the 2019 assembly polls, despite the alliance with the BJP, the Sena could only win 56 seats. Its stature was diminishing with every election, even as the BJP was increasing its footprint by poaching opposition leaders.
It was in 1995 when the Sena and the BJP, with 73 and 65 seats, respectively, in the 288-member assembly, joined hands to form the first saffron government in the state and Sena’s Manohar Joshi became the Chief Minister. The major blow to their alliance came in the 2017 Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) polls when the two parties contested separately.
The BJP felt it was a golden opportunity to dethrone the Sena from the BMC, Asia’s richest civic body that has a budget of over Rs 35,000 crore. CM Fadanvis put a lot of resources, money and muscle power to wrest the BMC from the Sena, which had been ruling the civic body for last 20 years.
BJP’s Mumbai unit president Asish Shelar even went ahead and poached several big Sena and Congress leaders. In a nail-biting finish, however, the Sena bagged 84 seats against BJP’s 82 in the total 227 seats and managed to retain the cash-rich BMC with the Congress-NCP indirectly coming to its rescue.
With the BJP in firm control at the Centre and expanding its wings in the states under Modi rule, the Punjab unit of the saffron party started demanding more seat share from SAD and did not want to play the second fiddle despite the fact that the party could not make inroads in the rural vote bank.
When the SAD-BJP combine was in power in the state from 2007 to 2017, BJP leaders alleged from time to time that the drug and sand mafia in the state had the patronage of SAD leaders.
The sacrilege incidents of Guru Granth Sahib in 2015 across the state and the subsequent police firing at Bargari in October that year further dented SAD’s image and BJP was quick to distance itself from the episodes.
On the other hand, the SAD accused the BJP of backtracking from the commitment of contesting Haryana assembly jointly. In the Delhi elections, too, the BJP snubbed SAD’s demand for more seats.
The BJP-AJSU alliance, which remained intact for 19 years, finally gave way last year as the AJSU was demanding a larger share of seats in 2019 Assembly polls while the BJP was not ready to give more than 13.
The AJSU, which had won 5 out of 8 seats it had contested in 2014 Assembly polls, claimed it had the best strike rate among all political parties and therefore it must be given at least double the seats it contested last time. The BJP was not ready to accede to the demand.
Also, the AJSU was annoyed with the arrogance of BJP leaders as it felt they were trying to impose their decision without consultation with the AJSU, its oldest ally in the state.
(With Inputs from Pushkar Banakar, Sudhir Suryawanshi, Harpreet Bajwa and Mukesh Ranjan)