Striking smart alliances will hold the key to winning future elections for any political formation as coalition politics has come to stay in India. Centralisation of power, rigid ideological positioning and refusal to accommodate others have proved to be counter-productive for the BJP, which has been losing one State after the other despite securing an emphatic second term in the Lok Sabha polls last year. The saffron party has been trying to ride roughshod over other NDA constituents, thereby losing its allies. Its oldest ally and fellow Hindutva traveller Shiv Sena broke ranks after the two parties failed to reach an agreement over power-sharing in Maharashtra. Now, another old partner, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), has decided to skip the Delhi Assembly polls due to differences over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). There is no love lost between the two parties in neighbouring Haryana too where they have been contesting elections separately even as their ties are under strain in Punjab — a State they had ruled together for two terms in a row. In Bihar, which goes to polls later this year, an assertive Nitish Kumar is expected to drive a hard bargain with the BJP. Relying solely on the charisma of Narendra Modi has made BJP less accommodative to the concerns of its allies, though the party needs the support of regional partners now more than ever before. The unwillingness to play the role of a junior partner to more formidable regional allies is responsible for BJP’s growing isolation.
The BJP has lost power in five States in a year, while it managed to form government in Haryana with the support of the fledgling Jannayak Janata Party. The arrogance of State leaders, who tend to treat all allies as dispensable, has cost the party heavily in Jharkhand where it failed to return to power. The biggest setback was caused by the All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU), a long-time ally, which was dumped by the saffron party. The BJP hoped that the AJSU contesting alone would split the anti-incumbency votes but its calculations went awry. There are enough warning signals that it will face more reversals in future unless the party leadership makes course corrections and reaches out to its embittered allies to regain their trust. A major challenge before new party chief JP Nadda is to quell the growing disaffection within the NDA. Already, the BJP’s intransigence over the controversial CAA and National Register of Citizens (NRC) has made some of its allies uncomfortable. SAD leaders have already suggested that Muslim immigrants be included under the purview of the CAA while Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) chief Ram Vilas Paswan expressed himself against making the NRC a mandatory exercise.