New Delhi: The BJP has an ally problem. What else can explain the fact that, since 2014, when it led the 26 parties in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to power at the Centre under the leadership of Narendra Modi, it has lost one ally after another.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who parted ways with the BJP and the NDA on August 9 and re-kindled his and his party Janata Dal (United)’s political relationship after the bitter break-up of 2017, is the latest to walk away from the BJP.
From a 27-party alliance (including the BJP) in 2014, the NDA is left with just about 16 allies, with most of the parties which were part of the BJP-led NDA when it ruled the country between 1999 and 2004, no longer part of the same.
From Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal), the BJP’s oldest ally, to JD(U) to late Ramvilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) the list of parties that fell out with the BJP is long.
In many cases, like LJP and, more recently, Shiv Sena, the BJP was behind the ouster of the leadership – Paswan’s son in the case of LJP and Uddhav Thackeray in the case of Shiv Sena, itself, ensuring divisions in the ally in such a manner that the control of the party went out of the hands of the respective families.
In The Break-up Between
The NDA’s latest loss is the JD(U), with Nitish Kumar breaking ties with the BJP and re-joining the Mahagathbandhan alliance he left behind in 2017. But while the BJP loses its allies, it has also time and again managed to break alliances in States and even parties themselves.
Even JD(U) was split when Sharad Yadav formed the Loktantrik Janata Dal (LJD) in May 2018. He parted ways with the Nitish-led party due to its alliance with the BJP. He has now welcomed the split of his former party’s alliance with the BJP saying, “Better late than never”.
“This alliance was already a part of the election. Amid that, Nitish ji made an alliance with the BJP. But it is nice that things are trying to be better. The old alliance due to which they won the elections along with the people because of whom he got votes was possible because of this alliance,” said Yadav.
He was talking about the 2015 Bihar Assembly elections, which was won by the Mahagathbandan, consisting of the JD(U), the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Congress Party. Kumar had up and left in 2017 – causing the government to fall – over corruption charges against then Deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav. Yadav has today, on August 10 re-taken the oath and made a comeback with the same alliance that Kumar left five years back.
The rumours are that Kumar left the alliance before the BJP could take advantage of an apparent rift in his own party which if true, would have caused another Maharashtra like fiasco. There, the Shiv Sena in July, witnessed a split with leader Eknath Shinde leaving with a majority of MLAs, breaking the Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance with the Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress party, and forming government with the BJP.
The future of Uddhav Thackeray, son of Bal Thackeray the founder of the Shiv Sena, now remains uncertain with the party symbol itself being claimed by Shinde. The NDA with its support to Shinde’s faction saw to the party’s split, and regaining its power that had been lost after Thackeray left his alliance with the NDA in 2019 and joined the Maha Vikas Aghadi.
Coming back to Bihar, another party which had a stronghold in the state – the LJP witnessed a split after the death of its founder Ram Vilas Paswan in 2020. The LJP which had re-entered its alliance with the BJP in 2014, left over seat sharing for the 2020 Assembly elections. This had reportedly led to the poor electoral performance of the JD(U) which had won 43 seats, out of the 115 that it had contested from the previous 2015 win of 71 seats.
But by mid-2021 the late LJP patron’s son Chirag Paswan was ousted as the party chief by five of its six party MPs.
Soon, the Pawan-led faction expelled the rebel MPs but the fate of the partywas sealed as Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla (a BJP leader) approved the recognition of Pashupati Paras as the LJP floor leader in the lower house. Pashupati, the younger brother of Ram Vilas, eventually formed the Rashtriya Lok Janshakti Party which formed an alliance with the NDA.
Up north, in Punjab the Akali Dal led by Sukhbir Singh Badal left the NDA in 2020, over the three contentious farm laws – laws which had led to over a year-long protest spearheaded by farmers, and were eventually withdrawn. The party’s exit was thought to be a major blow for the NDA, losing its oldest allies. But what came next, like a textbook of history repeating itself when a party leaves NDAs partnership, was the split of the second oldest party in the country.
Two rebel leaders emerged Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa and his son Parminder Singh Dhindsa who formed a new political party, the Shiromani Akali Dal (Democratic). By 2021 the party merged with another splinter of the Akali Dal, i.e., Shiromani Akali Dal (Taksali) and formed the Shiromani Akali Dal (Sanyukt) which is now part of the NDA.
Further up, in Jammu and Kashmir was the unlikely alliance formed between the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the BJP in 2015, where the plan was that the PDP would also join the NDA. By June 2018 the alliance came to an end, this time it was the BJP which first decided to pull the plug, although PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti had already started to make known that she had thoughts of pulling out.
There were then talks of at least 18 of the 28 PDP MLAs who were ready to join hands with the BJP. Most of the rebels joined the newly launched Apni Party, by former Finance Minister Syed Altaf Bukhari a defector from the PDP. Bukhari is perceived to be close to BJP’s central leadership.