Friends: on BJP and its disgruntled allies

Alliances are needed most in wartime, even if they are best made in peacetime. The Bharatiya Janata Party does not depend on the numerical strength of any alliance partner for its survival in government at the Centre, but it could well need all the help it can get in 2019 for the next Lok Sabha election. In the south, where it requires electoral partners the most, the BJP counts only on the Telugu Desam Party in Andhra Pradesh, but the strains are beginning to show on this long-standing friendship. Suddenly, the BJP finds itself having to deal with a belligerent TDP, which is under some political pressure to demonstrate to its support base that it is doing all it can to get the best deal for the State from the Centre. Also, the glue that bound these two parties earlier — that of anti-Congressism — is wearing somewhat thin now. After the founding of Telangana, the Congress is no longer the TDP’s principal rival in Andhra Pradesh, with the YSRCP under the leadership of Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy having emerged as a powerful political player. The TDP is painfully aware that the old relationship notwithstanding, the BJP may see the YSRCP as a potential ally, a party that it can do business with if the circumstances so demand. As things stand, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu is reluctant to snap the tie. But it will be no surprise if he continues to ramp up pressure on a BJP that has been put on the defensive thanks to the mauling in the Rajasthan by-elections and the growing disaffection among a couple of its other allies.

In Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena has been on a confrontation course for some time now, and in Punjab the Shiromani Akali Dal has recently turned just short of hostile. The reasons for the strain in each of the three States are of course very different. In Maharashtra, the BJP and the Shiv Sena court a similar political constituency and to a large extent each can grow only at the expense of the other. This contradiction between being an ally at one level and a rival at another level is a source of perennial strain, which is why both parties prefer a post-electoral tie-up, as they did after the Assembly election of 2014, to a pre-election alliance. In Punjab, the BJP and the Akali Dal occupy different political spaces. While the former is no threat to the latter, the Akali Dal is chafing at what it sees as step-motherly treatment meted out to it. If in Andhra Pradesh the BJP has a choice of allies and if it is better off without one in Maharashtra, the situation in Punjab is different inasmuch as the Akali Dal remains its best bet. The BJP may not need to rethink all its alliances, but it must rework its relationships with its allies if it wants to head a strong coalition of forces in 2019.

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Printable version | Dec 2, 2021 4:30:16 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/friends/article22670998.ece

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