The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is left with very few parties having a significant hold on the regional politics of states. And for that, the BJP is entirely responsible.
After the Shiromani Akali Dal bid adieu to the BJP-led NDA, with the Shiv Sena calling it quits after last Maharashtra assembly elections, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is left with very few parties having a significant hold on the regional politics of states. And for that, the BJP is entirely responsible.
The NDA: Now & Then
The BJP, led by Atal-Advani in the late 90s, realised that the party alone cannot fight the established electoral control of the Congress party. It was out of this realisation, and the bitterness of losing out on power in 1996 after the fall of their government in just 13 days, Vajpayee formed the NDA in 1998. The motive was clear- to dent as many states ruled by the Congress with the help of regional allies.
The NDA, first chaired by BJP President Atal Bihari Vajpayee, comprised of Samta Party, AIADMK, as well as Shiv Sena. More parties joined in after the BJP emerged as the single largest party in 1999 general elections. The NDA brought BJP what it could not achieve on its own- 5 complete years in power. From 1999 to 2004, the NDA led by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee ruled the country.
However, the tables have turned in these two decades. After Narendra Modi single-handedly managed to win the majority for the BJP in both general elections of 2014 and 2019, the Congress seems to have lost the touch. Though the party have managed to win few state elections here and there, the BJP still controls much of the discourse in the country. In such a situation, the Congress finds itself in a similar position the BJP was in the late 90s.
From “Chota Bhai” To “Bada Bhai”
On the other hand, the BJP under Modi has been aiming to expand beyond the massive success it has gained over the last 6 years. The BJP under Modi is trying to become the ‘number one’ party in as many states as possible. And in order to attain the top spot, they are even ready to sacrifice their own allies. The journey of the BJP starting as “Chota Bhai” (younger brother) in the alliance in states where it had limited reach, and then trying to become “Bada Bhai” (big brother) in the states after the Modi wave swept the country, has impacted its relationship with its allies.
Practically, the BJP cannot be blamed for having ambitions to grow more. Every political party works with a similar aim. In addition, the BJP under Amit Shah’s presidency built new offices and headquarters in regions where it had no presence a decade ago. The BJP membership registration drive and the incessant efforts by Amit Shah to boost the morale of cadre have made the BJP what it is today- the world’s largest political party.
However, the regional allies like the Shiv Sena and SAD have understood the BJP’s expansionist agenda. They realised that in a bid to stay in power, they are offering their own fertile ground to the BJP for its growth. What the BJP has been doing in Bihar with the JD(U) and Nitish Kumar is not new, since the same pattern has been used by the BJP to kill the presence of alliance parties in other states.
Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray, speaking at the Dusshera rally on Sunday, said: “BJP is saying that whatever be the result, Nitish Kumar would be the next CM. They said the same about Kuldeep Bishnoi but then dumped him after the polls. The same trick is being played with Nitish.”
Thackeray went on to add: “They did the same with us in 2014 and 2019 polls. They put up candidates against our nominees.”
The MVA Model of Alliance
No one with legit political understanding would have thought that a right-wing party like Shiv Sena can form an alliance with progressive parties like the NCP and Congress. Shiv Sena was the founding member of the NDA and the only Hindutva-vadi party along with the BJP. But when pushed beyond the limit by the BJP, in its bid to become bigger than Sena in Maharashtra, Sena understood what it needed to. And then there was Sharad Pawar. Sharad Pawar’s abilities to conduct marathon discussions and form coalitions are often praised by even his own opponents. He did exactly the same. When the MVA government was formed with Uddhav Thackeray as the Chief Minister, many in the BJP mocked the formation claiming the government could collapse at any time. Well, it’s been almost a year and the MVA government is still pretty much there.
The MVA has not only successfully managed to balance and run the coalition, but it also has answered the centre when needed. The MVA government withdrew the general consent given to the CBI three decades back. It has been vocal about the non-payment of GST dues from the centre for last few months. Veteran BJP leader Eknath Khadse, who has a significant following in North Maharashtra region, quit the BJP to join the NCP.
All in all, the Mahavikas Aghadi government has stood the test of time. The coalition, though couldn’t even have a “honeymoon period” in government since the efforts to control the spread of coronavirus consumed it, has still managed to keep the cadre of the three parties united.
The MVA Model & Probabilities
When asked about whether the MVA model of alliance can be implemented by the opposition in other states, Vijay Chormare, the senior assistant editor at Maharashtra Times, says: “It’s too early to predict whether such alliances can be formed in other states. In Bihar, there seems to be a possibility if election results do not provide a clear majority to NDA or opposition. Chirag Paswan factor is to be seen. We cannot predict if he’s going to win a significant number of seats to have an impact on government formation. But if there’s a situation where he can play a role in forming the government, we should not be surprised if he supports the RJD-led Mahagathbandhan. Even Nitish Kumar can switch sides for that matter.”
Talking about NDA’s expansionist attitude and the growing drift between its allies, Mr Chormare says: “There’s only the BJP left in NDA now. The other parties are too insignificant. But it is parties like the YSRCP, BJD and TRS who have a greater say in whether such alliances can work. Though these parties are not actively part of the NDA, they support the BJP on national issues. In return, they get the centre’s co-operation on local issues.”
However, Mr Chormare also says that the allies like Shiv Sena can go back to the BJP at any given time. The longevity of such alliances is often unpredictable.
In the context of upcoming Bihar elections, the opinion polls suggest that NDA will easily walk over the Mahagathbandhan. However, massive crowds at the rallies of MGB CM candidate Tejashwi Yadav have also raised questions over the opinion polls. Many suggest that despite there is an anti-incumbency against the Nitish Kumar’s JD(U), the BJP has managed to keep itself away from the blame. Though it is likely that JD(U) may see a fall in the number of seats, the BJP, by all means, is set to garner more seats than earlier. If the allies cross the magic number of 123, and the BJP continues with Nitish Kumar on the CM chair as promised, it is very unlikely that political equations in Bihar will change as they did in Maharashtra.
However, if both the alliances remain short of the majority and Chirag Paswan’s LJP scores considerably well to help form a government to any of both alliances, then the MVA model of alliance can be implemented in Bihar by the opposition.
Amid all this, Nitish Kumar too must be looking at the efforts taken to reduce the seats of his party. One should not be surprised, given the political history of Nitish Kumar, if he dumps the BJP in the end.
The MVA model of the alliance, though not predictable in its nature, has given scope to the BJP allies to think beyond the conventional pattern of an alliance. If pushed to the corner by the BJP, they may try to break free and search for other possibilities that can benefit them politically.