The National Democratic Alliance is shrinking even as the Bharatiya Janata Party is becoming stronger, and daring its former and current allies from the front.

The Shiromani Akali Dal, the Shiv Sena and the Janata Dal (U) were not only the founder members of the NDA but had travelled long with BJP in Punjab,Maharashtra and Bihar before late Atal Bihari Vajpayee formed the rainbow coalition of regional parties to emerge as an alternate to the Congress and other regional parties that had dethroned the BJP at the centre within 13 days.

If Vajpayee was more accommodative in sharing power with the regional parties during 1998 to 2004, the BJP under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is aggressive, expansionist. The Biju Janata Dal is the first NDA ally to realise the danger posed by the BJP to its existence in Orissa, and quit the NDA before the emergence of Narendra Modi as a national leader.

JD (U) chief Nitish Kumar realised this much later, when the BJP projected Modi as its prime ministerial candidate.

The last to wake up to their diminishing stature not just in the NDA but in their home states are the Shiv Sena and the Akali Dal.The Shiv Sena has now, after some vacillating, formed a government with the Congress in Maharashtra and has its horns locked with its former ally, the BJP in an almost perpetual fashion.

The allies say say in government policies reduced steadily under PM Modi as the Shiromani Akali Dal has learnt the hard way. It opposed the three farm bills but the BJPs refusal to accommodate the allies reservations led to a parting of ways, with the Akali Dal now quitting the NDA and the government altogether.

Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress, the AGP and the DMK were constituents of the NDA but were never as thick as the Akali Dal, Shiv Sena and the Janata Dal(U).And left early on.

The Modi dispensation continued with the NDA experiment even after 2014 not because it believed in the coalition spirit but needed the numbers of non-Congress parties to pass the bills in Rajya Sabha.

NDA -I had a convenor, and the Chairperson (Vajpayee) used to consult with the ally leaders formally and informally. But this practice was stopped after 2014.”We were called occasionally for a photo-Opp”, a former ally leader said.

The NDA, however, continues to exist and will remain so as the BJP needs regional parties in Tamil Nadu, Andhra-Telangana, Maharashtra,Northeast,Bihar, Jharkhand and smaller states like Goa.Currently, the BJP has about two dozen partners in the NDA. Nitish Kumar’s JD (U) returned to the fold after some histrionics, Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party is also with the alliance in Bihar though pushing hard for more seats for the forthcoming polls. The AIADMK in Tamil Nadu and the far smaller parties like the, Apna Dal faction in Uttar Pradesh,Chautala’s Jannayak Janata Party in Haryana are with the NDA but straining hard at the leash. A senior Bihar leader said, “they are in the NDA because they have nowhere else to go” with Nitish Kumar certainly finding himself with no possible partners except the BJP.

Regional parties had played a key role at the Centre during 1996 to 2014 in the formation of United Front, the NDA and the Congress led UPA.