BJP’s strong message to allies

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and (right) leaders of BJP allies Uddhav Thackeray (Shiv Sena), Ram Vilas Paswan (LJP) and Parkash Singh Badal (SAD). File pictures.  

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s hardball tactics with the Shiv Sena, its ally of 25 years, refusing to give in to the latter’s demands on its choice of ministerial berths in Maharashtra, and at the Centre, while swearing in Sena rebel —now newly anointed BJP member — Suresh Prabhu as a Cabinet Minister on Sunday has sent out a strong message to all NDA allies: it can stay on in the coalition, but on the BJP’s terms.

The recent Assembly polls in Maharashtra and Haryana presaged this approach: ahead of the elections, the BJP broke with the Sena in Maharashtra and the Haryana Janhit Congress in Haryana and contested alone in both States. In Maharashtra, it won twice as many seats as the Sena and emerged as the single largest party, reversing their roles in the State; in Haryana, it won a majority. And in both States, the BJP formed the government, replacing the Congress.

In Punjab the BJP is the junior partner in the Shiromani Akali Dal government. Earlier this week, Ram Shankar Katheria, the BJP’s newly appointed Punjab affairs in-charge (who was inducted into the Union Council of Ministers on Sunday) spoke of the party contesting the Punjab Assembly polls due in 2017 on its own, in case “a favourable scenario develops in the State”: the BJP feels that this will help it disassociate itself from the anti-incumbency that the SAD government will be burdened with.

In the recent Haryana polls, anticipating that the BJP planned in the near future to cut ties with it, the SAD campaigned for the Indian National Lok Dal against the BJP.

However, sources in the TDP — that already had a Cabinet berth at the Centre and acquired an MoS in industrialist-turned-politician and TDP Rajya Sabha MP Y.S. Chowdary on Sunday — said Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and party supremo N. Chandrababu Naidu’s focus is on pushing the Centre to part with the resources necessary to help build a new capital for the newly created State. So, that alliance will remain intact for the moment; moreover, the next Assembly elections in the State are five years away. Besides, the BJP will take a while to build its party organisation in the State.

Two NDA allies in Bihar, the Lok Janshakti Party and the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party, already had representation in the Union Cabinet. But the LJP’s Ram Vilas Paswan who has held very senior portfolios at the Centre, including the Railways, at the Centre in the past only managed to get Food and Public Distribution when the government was first formed, a reflection of his party’s reduced bargaining power.

On the other hand, in Jammu and Kashmir that will be going to the polls later this month, if the BJP performs well, it may well be forced to form a government with the People’s Democratic Party, tipped to do well in the valley. Meanwhile, on Sunday to strengthen itself in the Jammu region, it inducted the National Conference’s Ajatshatru Singh, senior Congress leader Karan Singh’s son.

The dramatic turn of events on Sunday, when the BJP swiftly enrolled Mr. Prabhu as a member of the party and made him a Minister reflects the style of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah — swift and decisive. Having won an overwhelming mandate in the general elections earlier this year, the BJP is clearly working towards a situation where it can dispense with allies — and Sunday’s expansion of the Council of Ministers is a pointer in that direction.


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Printable version | Oct 29, 2021 1:17:34 AM |

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