A new, refurbished National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by the BJP is in the works, and its first outing is planned on July 18 with a meeting of the alliance partners at a five-star hotel in New Delhi.
Confirmations have been received from several NDA partners including Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma, who heads the National People’s Party (NPP), Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, who heads the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) in the State, Union Ministers Anupriya Patel of the Apna Dal (Sonelal), Ramdas Athawale of the Republican Party of India, Chief Minister of Maharashtra and Shiv Sena chief Eknath Shinde, his deputy and leader of the breakaway Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) faction Ajit Pawar, Pawan Kalyan of Jana Sena Party (JSP) and Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) leader Jitan Ram Manjhi.
HAM national president Santosh Kumar Suman on July 15 confirmed that the party had received the letter sent by BJP president J.P. Nadda. “I have received the letter to attend the NDA meeting on July 18 in Delhi. I want to thank Prime Minister Narendra Modiji, J.P. Naddaji and Amit Shahji for considering us as part of NDA. We will try our best to give maximum support to the NDA,” Mr. Suman said. He also expressed his desire to contest the Lok Sabha election from Gaya.
Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas) national president Chirag Paswan also confirmed receiving the letter but he said he was still considering whether to attend. “I have received the letter of J.P. Naddaji and after discussing it with my leaders, we will take the decision whether to attend the meeting or not,” Mr. Paswan said at Patna airport. Interestingly, Minister of State for Home, Nityanand Rai, has held at least two meetings with Mr. Paswan about his return to the NDA fold in the run-up to the invite.
Significantly, Mr. Paswan’s uncle, Pashupati Kumar Paras, who is a Union Minister and heads the breakaway faction of the Lok Janshakti Party is also in receipt of the letter of invitation.
Erstwhile NDA partners Akali Dal and the N. Chandrababu Naidu-led Telugu Desam Party (TDP), whose return to the NDA fold was being speculated about for much of last month, have not received any invitation. There is also no word yet on Dushyant Chautala of the Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) receiving the letter of invitation.
The NDA meet, in its latest form, is being described by the BJP leadership as a work in progress with other possible partners being identified and reached out to, in order to build a “tapestry of alliances” in the face of efforts by the Opposition to forge a unified grouping.