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Portfolio allocation shows that allies hardly matter

Portfolio allocation shows that allies hardly matter

The less dazzling representation of the allies in the council of ministers could mean that Narendra Modi has struck a deal with both Chandrababu Naidu and Nitish Kumar to do something remarkable for them in their states that would help them consolidate their hold in their backyards.

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Last Updated : 12 June 2024, 05:30 IST
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The more it changes, the more it remains the same. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s portfolio allocation in the newly formed Union government gives the impression that nothing has changed despite the ‘Modi government’ becoming an ‘NDA government’.

With Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders ranging from Amit Shah downwards holding almost the same weighty or creamy portfolios, the representatives of N Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) have been handed out ‘passenger’ ministries. That too without any murmur.

It means the allies do not count much in Modi’s scheme of things. The only high-profile ministry handed out to the allies is civil aviation to TDP’s Ram Mohan Naidu, son of the late Union minister Kinjarapu Yerran Naidu, and a close associate of Chandrababu Naidu. The Civil Aviation Ministry, held by Jyotiraditya Scindia in the previous government, has lost much of its shine after Air India was sold to the Tata Group.

There could be other factors too for the allies to be sold on a song. The TDP or the JD(U) could be apprehensive of Modi and Shah for their ‘surgical strikes’ on allies and rivals like Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena and Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) to gain power in Maharashtra.

Especially since 2014, the BJP’s central leadership has been dreaded for engineering splits in rival parties or creating trouble among allies too, and Naidu and Nitish have been victims in the past.

In June 2019, the BJP took away four of the six TDP MPs in the Rajya Sabha after Naidu parted ways with the BJP, and was in a vulnerable position after losing the Assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh. This defection took place when Naidu was in Europe.

When Naidu was arrested in September, the rumour in TDP circles was that then Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy could have gone ahead with the arrest only after a green signal from the Union government. It is also an open secret that Reddy could run the state’s affairs in a relatively peaceful manner for five years because the Centre put a lid on the ED cases against him.

The less dazzling representation of the allies in the council of ministers could also mean that Modi has struck a deal with both Naidu and Kumar to do something remarkable for them in their states that would help them consolidate their hold in their backyards. In return, Modi expects a carte blanche in running the Centre as he deems fit.

Naidu has been seeking a special package for Andhra Pradesh to tide over the situation caused by carving out Telangana from the undivided Andhra Pradesh 10 years back. This was what led to Naidu parting ways with the BJP ahead of the 2019 general elections.

Naidu, who will be sworn in as chief minister on June 12, also wants a massive helping hand from the Centre to build up his dream project the new capital city of Amaravati. Naidu is credited for making Hyderabad the IT behemoth it is today.

With Assembly elections in Bihar scheduled next year, Kumar’s priority is to get another term and extend his political career. This means that he is not in the mood for any confrontation with the BJP. Given this, his attempt to touch Modi’s feet at the NDA parliamentary party meeting can be interpreted as his way of politically ‘bending the knee’.

A series of Assembly polls due by the year-end or early next year including those in Maharashtra, Haryana, Delhi, and later in Bihar could trigger a churn in national politics. Therefore, Naidu’s and Kumar’s attempt is to get the maximum in the shortest possible time.

The election of the Speaker of the Lok Sabha will be an important one because it will be the first time the new government and the revitalised Opposition will be squaring off. Reports have it that Andhra Pradesh BJP president and Rajahmundry MP Daggubati Purandeswari is one of the frontrunners for the post. The BJP leader is the daughter of the TDP founder N T Rama Rao and the sister-in-law of Naidu. If this turns out well it means that Modi has bought peace to consolidate his hold on power. It goes without saying that in a coalition, each day is another day.

Time will tell whether allies matter to Modi or have been compromised or accommodated. Or for now, Naidu and Kumar are biding their time.

For now, it can be said that a leopard does not change its spots.

(Sunil Gatade and Venkatesh Kesari are senior journalists.)

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are the author's own. They do not necessarily reflect the views of DH.

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