BJP tackles 'ally with a difference' challenge

BJP’s record of being able to win back the confidence of even its recalcitrant allies will be put to test in Bihar where its relations have soured with on and off friend Janata Dal(United).

For long the BJP claimed itself to be a party with a difference. If recent developments in its alliance with Bihar’s ruling party JD(U) is to be taken into account, the latter has rather proved itself to be an ally with a difference.

The BJP has managed to retain rabble-rousing allies like Shiv Sena, which has time and again embarrassed it by directly attacking the central government on a number of issues. But the two parties fought 2019 Lok Sabha polls together and are now in alliance for October 21 state polls.

The BJP also won back the Asom Gana Parishad, which had parted ways on the issue of Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, to fight 2019 Lok Sabha polls together.

The exception was N Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party, first NDA ally to desert the alliance ahead of the general elections. Since then it has been at the receiving end of the BJP onslaught with four of six Rajya Sabha MPs and a number of leaders of TDP joining the saffron party.

Upendra Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samata Party and Raju Shetty’s Swabhimani Shetkari Sangatana are also lost in the wilderness after leaving the NDA fold. 

Jammu and Kashmir’s PDP, whose government was pulled down by the BJP mid-way last year, stares at an uncertain future after the abrogation of Article 370.

The case of JD(U) is a bit more complex. It steadfastly refused to endorse the BJP stand on pet issues like NRC, triple talaq, Uniform Civil Code and abrogation of Article 370.

So when BJP leaders skipped a Dasara ceremony on Tuesday in Patna, it was yet another indication of the pot of discontent boiling between the two constituents. However, both the partners have repeatedly been saying that they will fight the 2020 Bihar Assembly polls in alliance.

Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) had broken off its 17-year-old relationship with the NDA in 2013 opposing the projection of Narendra Modi as BJP’s prime ministerial face. In 2015 assembly polls, it allied with Lalu Prasad’s RJD and Congress and handed a crushing defeat to the then resurgent BJP.  

Quick to realise that in the tripolar power politics of Bihar, it cannot form a government on its own, the BJP reached out to old ally and capitalising on the growing differences between the RJD and JD(U) in 2017. However, soon the ideological differences between “the BJP of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah” and JD(U) started resurfacing.

But before it could reach the tipping point, the BJP in a  true “stoops to conquer” style salvaged the alliance by agreeing to contest the equal number of Lok Sabha seats in Bihar. This even as BJP had won a whopping 22 and JD(U) a mere two LS seats in 2014.

Insiders feel ‘There Is No Alternative’ factor for both will once again keep the two together even as many in the BJP nurse the ambition of going it alone in Bihar.

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