BJP and Sena: Signals not good

BJP president Amit Shah could not have missed the writing on the wall. So, he has told the Maharashtra BJP leaders that they better prepare to go it alone for the Lok Sabha elections as there is no guarantee that Shiv Sena would be with them for 2019. Sena has been blowing hot and cold with BJP throughout its matrimony with NDA. It has been a stormy affair in which the Sena could appear to be in or out any moment and still carried on for so long. But the Ram Mandir issue seems to have given the final push. 

Amit Shah is a no-nonsense man. So, when he tells his Maharashtra MPs to be ready to face the elections independently, although efforts are continuing to have the alliance going, it suggests that the rift with Sena is widening and the parting of ways is difficult to avoid. Shiv Sena has not been seeing eye to eye with many policies of the Modi government, but the Prime Minister’s statement during the course of his interview that the government will decide on bringing an ordinance on the Ram temple only after judicial process was over has led to further hardening of position by the NDA partner, which cannot be more saffron when it comes to the temple. Sena has also been supporting the Opposition demand for a JPC probe in the Rafale deal, in which the government is fighting a desperate perception battle. 

The BJP leadership has been worried over the adverse effect of NDA partners dropping out at regular intervals. Naidu’s TDP was the first to leave; recently Kushwaha crossed over to the Opposition with his party and the minor partners in UP are restive over their demands and concerns. Two more UP allies, Suhaildev Bhartiya Samaj Party and Apna Dal, are said to be unhappy and exploring alternatives. The two parties distanced themselves from the Prime Minister’s programmes in Varanasi and Ghazipur recently, bringing the differences to sharp focus. 

Perhaps this was the reason for the party to strike a conciliatory note when it came to seat adjustments with Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) and Ramvilas Paswan’s Lok Jan Shakti in Bihar and in both cases the BJP had to make big sacrifices to accommodate the two. But this seems to have carried the wrong message to minor partners still continuing in the NDA as they are mustering courage to seek their pound of flesh as well. The emerging reality has even prompted BJP to look for new allies, particularly in states like UP, where the party is facing a tough challenge to retain its seats, which is crucial for the party coming back to power. So, possibility of a churning is very real and that is the message in Amit Shah’s advice.