Cracks in the NDA?
Akali Dal and Shiv Sena have both decided to contest forthcoming polls independent of the BJP
NEW DELHI: At least two of the major allies of the BJP in the National Democratic Alliance have shown the red flag to the alliance on the eve of the crucial budget session, with the Akali Dal now following the Shiv Sena in announcing its decision to contest forthcoming elections alone. Both the political parties have thus,taken the first step to move out of the BJP led coalition at the centre, and the state.
The Shiv Sena signalled its exit from the NDA announcing its decision to contest all future elections, including the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and the Maharashtra Assembly elections, on its own. The Shiv Sena that has become increasingly critical of the BJP, unanimously adopted a political resolution at its national executive in Mumbai, maintaining that it will not have poll alliances with the BJP from now on. However, it will continue to be in government in Maharashtra with the BJP.
The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has broken its silence now, to announce that it will contest the Haryana Assembly elections on its own. It had snapped ties with the Indian Lok Dal last year after decades, but will now also contest against the BJP. This is expected to have repercussions on the alliance in Punjab, currently in opposition, and at the centre just as the BJP led government is preparing to present the budget in Parliament next week.
The Akali Dal has moved to appoint observers in Haryana, appointing senior leader and MP Balwinder Singh Bhunder as the party in charge for the state that will go to the polls next year.
The Akali Dal has already decided to contest at least 55 of the 90 Assembly seats in Haryana. It claims that as many as 35 Assembly seats in the state have a sizeable presence of Sikh voters. This will be the first time that the party will be contesting as a major player, having decided to spread its wings as it were into the neighbouring state. Party president Sukhbir Singh Badal was quoted in the Tribune as saying, “since the Akali Dal is a party of Punjabis, we are looking at providing a political leadership to the Punjabis settled in Haryana. The political leadership there is largely for Jats and Punjabis want an own political platform.” It might be recalled that the Jats in Haryana are particularly upset with the current BJP government.
Meanwhile Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray addressed party workers after the national executive maintaining that there was speculation that the Lok Sabha polls will be held in 2018 itself. He attacked the “continuously lying” BJP government, and directed the party cadres to begin preparing for the polls. Relations between the BJP and the Shiv Sena turned bitter after 2014, when the BJP captured power at the centre, and emerged as the single largest party in Maharashtra with 122 seats as against the Shiv Sena’s 63.
The relationship between the BJP and Shiv Sena, allies since the mid-80s, has turned bitter since 2014 when the BJP won power at the centre on its own under Modi and later emerged the single largest party in Maharashtra, winning 122 seats against Shiv Sena’s 63. In the May 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance won 42 of 48 seats with the Sena winning 18. But in October 2014, the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance broke off and contested the assembly polls against each other. In February 2017, it was Uddhav Thackeray who declared that the Sena would contest the municipal corporation elections, including those for Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), on its own.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis made light of the Shiv Sena move when asked of this by reporters in Davos. “Let’s wait, they have been saying many things. As of now we are in alliance in the government and this government will complete its term,” he said.
Significantly the Telugu Desam, another major ally of the BJP, seems to be straining at the leash as well. Although Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu has travelled with Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Andhra Pradesh, sources suggest, that he is worried about losing ground and space to the BJP in his state. An indication of this was the decision by the Telugu Desam to vote against the government, and join Opposition ranks,against the Triple Talaq Bill in Parliament. This had come as a surprise to the BJP, although after this move there has been little officially to suggest a growing distance between TDP and the BJP. However, the sources said Naidu’s relations with the Opposition leaders remain close, and he certainly cannot be seen as an eternally loyal NDA ally.