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Opinion

BJP’s political and ideological dominance is causing unease in the NDA – editorials

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The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)’s decision to not contest the Delhi assembly polls is yet another sign of the cracks in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). To be sure, the SAD is a minor player in Delhi’s political landscape — it bagged only 0.5% of the vote and won no seat in the 2015 polls. It is also not clear if the party decided to opt out because it was not getting to contest the number of seats it wanted — which the Bharatiya Janata Party’s leaders suggest was the key reason — or because of its opposition to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act excluding Muslims (which is the SAD’s stated position). But irrespective of the reason, the episode highlights how, over the past year, the BJP’s ties with its allies has undergone a churn.

The context is important here. The BJP, through the late 1980s and early 1990s, was considered a political pariah because of its Hindutva politics. The inability to stitch alliances cost AB Vajpayee his government in 1996. But, then, the BJP moved towards a centrist political stance; it dropped contentious issues from its platform; and the NDA became an umbrella formation. In the run-up to Narendra Modi’s nomination as the prime ministerial candidate, and in his first term in office, there was a churn in the NDA — some allies dropped out, others came in.

But two things have changed. The BJP’s 2019 victory reinforced its dominance in politics. This generated obvious insecurities among other political parties, including the BJP’s allies. This was most obvious in the case of the Shiv Sena, which did not want to get consigned to being a junior partner in Maharashtra and decided to walk out. The other difference was that the BJP read the mandate as one which was a vote for its core ideological beliefs — from the nullification of Article 370 to the CAA. This has made a set of allies, the SAD, Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United), Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janashakti Party, smaller Northeastern allies, and those forces which tend to back the government in the Rajya Sabha such as Biju Janata Dal and Telangana Rashtra Samithi uncomfortable. It is this combination of political dominance and ideological aggression — coupled with rising protests against the government — that explains the underlying tensions within the NDA. If the BJP wants to keep its broad coalition intact, it will have to be more conciliatory in its political approach (as it has been in Bihar, by accepting Mr Kumar as the CM candidate) and more flexible ideologically.

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