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Opinion

Will Modi be the impediment for NDA alliance?

In the last four years, the BJP relied so heavily on the brand Modi that now it has been overused and the magic is now wearing off. So, 2019 will boil down to the same old-fashioned Indian politics of alliance.

 

If there is one thing to be sure about the 2019 Lok Sabha election, it is that the elections will be all about the alliance. With the opposition’s power display during the swearing-in ceremony of Congress Chief Ministers in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh, it has become crystal-clear that alliances will shape the 2019 elections more than anything. The chances of witnessing a 2014-style “Modi-wave” that delivered BJP its first absolute majority are very bleak. One of the biggest takeaways from the recently concluded five assembly elections was the Modi magic is just not working now. In the last four years, the BJP relied so heavily on the brand Modi that now it has been overused and the magic is now wearing off. So, 2019 will boil down to the same old-fashioned Indian politics of making and breaking alliances.

modi
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With the alliance politics taking the centre stage, a party will have an edge only if it is able to seal the deal successfully within time. However, going by the present scenario, both Congress and BJP seem far from achieving this.

 

BJP’s ally trouble:

BJP’s ally trouble began right from 2014 when it won the election with an absolute majority. The saffron party had a bitter fallout with Shiv Sena-BJP’s NDA partner from the scratch just ahead of the Maharashtra Assembly election. Both of them fought the elections separately. Though, post-election the parties stitched an alliance again to form a government in the states, the impasse between them is on display every now and then. Recently, the parties sparred over Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray not being invited to the inauguration of series of development plans in and around Mumbai by PM Modi.

amit shah
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While the bond between the allies is strained in Maharashtra, the picture is not very different in Bihar. Rashtriya Lok Samata Party chief Upendra Kushwaha left the NDA camp after months of suspense. Telugu Desam Party broke away from the coalition citing Centre’s unresponsive attitude towards the Andhra Pradesh Special Status demand. Since then TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu has jumped the alliance ship and has been active in meeting various alliance leaders.

Upendra Kushwaha
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In Uttar Pradesh, Ram Vilas Paswan has constantly raised alliance concerns. On Tuesday, Lok Janata Party MP Chirag Paswan rung the alarm bell for Modi government.  In a tweet, Paswan said that the NDA coalition is going through a tough time after the exit of TDP and RLSP and it is the duty of the BJP (the largest constituent of NDA) to remove all the qualms from the mind of remaining NDA partners on time. He further indicated towards the parties hitting a roadblock over seat-sharing formula. He tweeted, “There have been several meetings with BJP leaders over seat sharing. However, nothing concrete came out of it.” The Paswan scion even hinted at “possible loss” if the decisions are not taken on time. Going by the way Upendra Kushwaha pulled out of NDA, Paswan may have warned about LJP exiting the coalition.

Well, most of them listed the autocratic working of Modi and Shah as the reason for their discontent. It is becoming apparent day by day that BJP may not achieve the number of seats it achieved in 2014, and the only way the party would come to power is by taking along the alliance partners. It should raise a red flag within the party that most of the alliance partners are turning their back just ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha election.

Congress’ ally fix:

While NDA is going through troubled waters is situation different for the Congress and opposition alliance. The answer is a straight No. Since last few months, the opposition leaders are showing every sign that they are gearing up for the next Lok Sabha elections. The opposition unity was at display during the swearing-in ceremony of Karnataka CM HD Kumaraswamy and so was at the swearing-in ceremony of Kamal Nath.

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Opposition unity at Kamal Nath swearing-in ceremony

While Congress has sealed an alliance with DMK in Tamil Nadu and NCP in Maharashtra, the seat-sharing formula is yet to be agreed upon. In Bihar, the party is looking at a positive deal with Lalu Yadav’s RJD. On the other hand, most of the opposition parties seem to vary of Congress heading the opposition alliance though they have supported the party on various issues including Rafale.  So why is there a problem with opposition alliance?

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The reason is Mayawati and Akhilesh. The two parties have maintained a steady distance from Congress. Before the assembly elections, Mayawati refused to form a coalition with Congress in Madhya Pradesh. Same was the case in Rajasthan. In Chhattisgarh, however, tied up with Congress rebel Ajit Jogi’s Janata Congress. If these hints were not obvious enough, she even excluded Congress from the list of invitees for her big birthday bash which is considered to be the gala for the non-BJP, non-Congress party leaders across the country.

Uttar Pradesh hosting the maximum parliamentary constituencies in the country becomes a Launchpad for the Delhi throne. Not to forget, the major contributor to Modi’s absolute majority in 2014 was Uttar Pradesh with 69 seats out of 80 in the state.

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Mayawati and Akhilesh joining hands have already dented the BJP by changing the caste arithmetic. What wonder the alliance can deliver on the electoral table was witnessed in Gorakhpur, Phulpur and Kairana by-polls where BJP was completely routed. But, while SP and BSP are ensuring a BJP has a hard time penetrating UP next year, they aren’t entertaining the Congress too. If the parties don’t ally with Congress, the party will have to contest separately which may turn into a disappointment.

 

 Alliance of ideology vs Alliance of opportunity:  

It must be noted that the ally trouble is haunting both BJP and Congress. However, the allies of NDA are more likely to stay with the coalition if their only concern i.e. Modi’s autocratic leadership and neglect of the NDA constituents is addressed. On the opposition side, the alliance is less about ideology and more about the opportunities. The alliance formation has become is fanning the Prime Ministerial aspirations of many opposition leaders including Mamata Banerjee and Mayawati herself. Recently, Mamata Banerjee even rejected DMK chief Stalin’s statement supporting Rahul Gandhi as the PM face of the opposition.

Not only Banerjee, according to sources, but Samajwadi Party, Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party, Trinamool Congress, Farooq Abdullah’s National Conference, Lalu Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal, and the CPM too have also objected to the suggestion.

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While Congress has deliberately avoided commenting on the issue, many horses running for the same trophy giving a fruitful alliance is an idea at its absurd best.

But as the former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill once said, “There is only one thing worse than fighting with allies, and that is fighting without them”, both BJP and Congress have to find ways to keep their flocks together. The real mettle of both the parties will be proven if they succeed in stitching a strong alliance in the next six months.

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