A gathering of 38 political parties in the national capital endorsed the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the 2024 general election and renewed the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), which had become redundant with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) winning a Lok Sabha majority on its own in 2014 and 2019. That Mr. Modi is the leader of the BJP is unquestionable but he is determined to show that his strength is not limited to his own party. The NDA has expanded with the induction of several parties in recent months, notably in Maharashtra where splinter groups of two regional parties, the Nationalist Congress Party and the Shiv Sena, have joined the bandwagon. In Uttar Pradesh, Om Prakash Rajbhar’s Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party has returned to the saffron camp, after an acrimonious split ahead of the 2022 Assembly election; in Bihar, both factions of the Lok Janshakti Party, and breakaway groups and individuals from the Janata Dal (United) are powering the NDA. More matches are in the works — the Janata Dal (Secular) in Karnataka, and the Telugu Desam Party led by N. Chandrababu Naidu in Andhra Pradesh are in touch with the BJP. These new alignments have electoral implications, at a minimum in Maharashtra, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, where the BJP hopes to retain its primacy.
Apart from these electoral calculations, the point being made also is that the BJP under Mr. Modi, despite its position of strength, is eager to have a broad coalition of parties and social groups. The NDA’s show of strength comes against the backdrop of an evolving united front of Opposition parties against the BJP. Mr. Modi has accused the Opposition coalition of being opportunistic — a charge that is undoubtedly true, but then it equally holds true for the NDA as well. The BJP remains formidable in its strongholds, but it does not want to leave things to chance. It has a maximalist approach in electioneering. In parading its own partners, the BJP wants to reassure itself and its supporters that the party is not isolated or politically untouchable. Of particular note is the BJP’s relationship with the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in Tamil Nadu that continues despite many irritants, as it seeks a foothold in the Dravidian fortress. The party is likely to have more tricks up its sleeve in the coming weeks. Part of the BJP agenda, such as the call for a Uniform Civil Code, will test the endurance of the NDA, but there are enough reasons for these parties to stick together.