“It will be very difficult for us to stay on in NDA. Our agreement was with Advani & Vajpayee”
Hours after BJP patriarch L.K. Advani resigned from all official positions in the party on Monday in the wake of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi assuming the position of campaign committee chief, the reverberations began to be felt in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). The Janata Dal (United) made its displeasure clear, saying its leadership would meet soon to review its relationship with the BJP, as it would be difficult for it now to continue in the NDA.
“After L.K. Advani’s resignation,” JD(U) secretary-general K.C. Tyagi said, “it will be very difficult for us to stay on in the NDA. Our agreement was with L.K. Advani and Atal Bihari Vajpayee.” He said the JD(U)’s top leaders, including Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar — who had made apparent earlier this year that he would not accept Mr. Modi’s elevation as the NDA’s prime ministerial candidate — would meet soon to take an official view of the momentous events in the BJP.
Meanwhile, even as the JD(U) has been planning its exit from the NDA for the last few months, it has been in touch with its eastern and southern neighbours, West Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress and Odisha’s ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD). The three parties, JD(U) sources told The Hindu, are likely to join forces using the common platform of demanding special status for their respective States, and greater resources. If the Centre has been making noises that it might oblige the JD(U) — in the hope that it will join the UPA — it has already turned down a similar demand made by Odisha in 2011.
“This is not yet a third front,” a JD(U) functionary, however, clarified, “just a coming together of three eastern States with a common problem, discrimination by the Centre, and a common aspiration, secularism.” He made it clear that for the moment, the three parties would be “equidistant from the Congress and the BJP.”
But if it is not yet a third front, it could certainly form the kernel of such a grouping.
Interestingly, the talk in the JD(U) of “a coming together of three eastern States” coincides with Odisha Chief Minister and BJD boss Naveen Patnaik saying in an interview published on Monday that his party would keep its distance from both main national parties, and would join other regional satraps to form a front that does not include the Congress or the BJP. “The prevailing political situation and projected electoral arithmetic through various opinion polls clearly indicate the emergence of a third front as a viable alternative,” Mr. Patnaik said.
West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool supremo Mamata Banerjee also chose Monday to suggest the formation of a federal front of non-Congress and non-BJP regional parties for 2014: “Let us stand together. Let us talk together. Let us decide a plan of action for the next Lok Sabha elections,” she said in Kolkata. “I appeal to all the non-Congress, non-BJP regional parties to launch a united fight to free the country from misrule and anti-people decisions, and work together to build a better and brighter India,” she said.
At a rally in the national capital in March, Mr. Kumar had ridiculed Mr. Modi’s model of “skewed” development, while emphasising his own ‘inclusive” strengths. Since then, a JD(U) spokesperson taunted the Gujarat Chief Minister on his inability to contain the anti-Muslim violence in 2002. Finally, the JD(U) even passed a resolution asking the BJP to name a “secular” candidate to lead the NDA into the coming general election.
Now, Mr. Patnaik, who proposes to hold a swabhiman rally in the national capital on June 12, similar in intent to the huge JD(U) March public meeting has been similarly scathing about Mr. Modi. Asked about his elevation as the chairman of the BJP campaign panel on Sunday, he echoed Mr. Kumar: “The people of Gujarat were always more prosperous than most other States. It is the people of Gujarat who should be given credit for the development of Gujarat.”
The BJD’s swabhiman rally will demand special status for Odisha, and the party has already released a video film on Odia pride, with a rousing music track. The party has collected one crore signatures to back its demand, even as it distributes pamphlets and other campaign material highlighting the Centre’s neglect of the State. The Trinamool, which has been pressing the Centre for more financial resources, informed sources said, was also planning a rally to focus on its problems.
If the JD(U) is on the verge of ending its relationship with the BJP, both the Trinamool and the BJD were also once in the NDA. The Trinamool joined the NDA in 1999 and left in 2001, returning again in January 2004 and departing once again in 2009 to join the UPA — it walked out of the UPA last year. As for the BJD, the violence in Orissa’s Kandhamal, instigated by Hindutva outfits, finally saw the party quitting the NDA in 2009.