VENKATESH KESARI | 25 MARCH, 2018

Is the NDA Sinking? Regional Parties Scurrying to Jump Ship

A host of smaller parties part ways with the BJP


NEW DELHI: The smaller regional parties that had added to the BJP’s winning basket are all now looking to jump off the ship with the hope, of course, of being able to swim ashore. Some have left, others are in the queue registering disquiet and resentment of promises unfulfilled.

Most of the smaller political parties had climbed on to the BJP bandwagon on the basis of assurances that their space would be protected, and their key demands met. Swabhimani Paksha led by sitting Lok Sabha member Raju Shetti set the ball rolling and was the first to leave the Nationalist Democratic Alliance. He met Congress President Rahul Gandhi a few days ago leading to speculation that he will now be joining the Opposition party that is working overtime to build an alternative coalition.

Telugu Desam is the second ally to leave the BJP and the government with Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu going as far as to move a no confidence against the central government in Parliament.

On the heels of the TDP exit has come the announcement from the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha that pulled out of the ruling front this Saturday. The BJP had got the GJM on board by appearing to agree with its demand for a separate hill state, that clearly does not fit in with the ruling party’s trajectory.

The Shiv Sena, the oldest ideological ally of the BJP, has been taking snipes at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other BJP leaders and has announced that it will fight against its ally in the Lok Sabha and Maharashtra state elections. It has 18 MPs in the current Lok Sabha.

At the onset after PM Narendra Modi came to power the DMK,AIADMK,Trinamool Congress, India National Lok Dal, Rashtriya Lok Dal Haryana Vikas Congress,MDMK,Uttarakhand Kranti Dal,National Conference had worked with the BJP in different capacities along the way. But they all parted ways feeling the heat of the party’s aggressively expansionist policy.

“Our decision to align with the BJP was based on the promises made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi prior to the polls. He had talked about implementation of recommendations of the Swaminathan Committee and pro-farmer policies. However, in the three-and-a-half years of their rule, they have repeatedly gone back on their words so it does not make sense continuing in the government,” Shetti told The Citizen.

Swabhimani Paksha has a strong base in the cane belt of western Maharashtra. An offshoot of the erstwhile Shetkari Sanghatana, the organisation came into existence when Shetti had decided to part ways from his mentor the legendary farmers’ leader Sharad Joshi. Ironically, Joshi’s decision to support the BJP and Shiv Sena in the 1990s had brought about the division of the farmers’ body.

During the general elections of 2009, Shetti had emerged as a giant killer by defeating NCP heavy weight Nivedita Mane at Hatkanangale in Kolhapur. The 2014 elections proved decisive for Shetti as he won with a record margin. However, the Sanghatana did not manage to win any other seat in the general elections although it had allied with the BJP and fought elections together as an NDA constituent.

During the assembly elections, Shetti had sided with the BJP but failed to get any of its candidates elected.

The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) is accusing the BJP of betraying the trust of Gorkhas. GJM organising chief LM Lama said that the party has no relation with the BJP-led NDA. The GJM was upset with the recent statement of Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh that his party only had an electoral alliance with GJM.

“The claim made by the BJP, leader of NDA, that GJM is a friend and a constituent of the NDA and the slogan of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the dream of the Gorkhas is my dream have all been exposed by the statement of the Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh who stated that the BJP only had an electoral alliance with GJM and that there was no agreement for a common political resolution. This statement makes it amply clear that the BJP is neither sympathetic nor sincere towards the Gorkhas,” Lama said.

He also stated that it is known to all that the GJM gifted the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat to BJP twice- in 2009 and 2014 elections. In 2009, the GJM had supported the candidature of BJP leader Jaswant Singh when he contested the election from Darjeeling constituency. The party, however, was not satisfied with the BJP leader’s performance. Despite this, the Bimal Gurang-led GJM had lent it’s support to BJP candidate S S Ahluwalia in 2014.

“Darjeeling has been the political gateway to Bengal for BJP and this has been possible only because of GJM. For so many years the people had hoped that our issues would be addressed and resolved. However, BJP has only betrayed the people time and again. It is because of BJP that the hills of Darjeeling are today enveloped in an environment of mistrust and political disturbance,” Lama told sections of the media.

While the previous leadership of GJM worked as an alliance partner of the NDA, the new leadership has no contact or alliance with the NDA. As such, GJM under the leadership of Binay Tamang has nothing to do with the NDA,” said Lama.

Former Bihar chief minister and Hindustani Awam Morcha chief Jitan Ram Manjhi quit the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), last month.

This came minutes after reports of a meeting between Manjhi and former Bihar chief minister Rabri Devi surfaced. Devi is also the wife of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Lalu Prasad Yadav.

File image of Jitan Manjhi. PTI

Lalu's son Tejashwi Yadav addressed the media along with Manjhi and said, "He has been an old friend to my parents; we welcome him," ANI reported.

On Sunday, Manjhi had demanded that his party be allotted one Rajya Sabha seat in the upcoming elections, failing which the party would not support the BJP-led coalition in the next one Lok Sabha and two Assembly bypolls.

"The NDA must announce at least one Hindustani Awam Morcha leader among its candidates for the six Rajya Sabha seats in Bihar. If that does not happen, our party workers will not campaign for candidates of the coalition in the bypolls", Manjhi said.

Manjhi said that "for more than a year and a half, I and my party have been working tirelessly for strengthening the NDA in Bihar. But as the saying goes, even a mother does not feed her child until he or she cries and demands attention."

The Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) led by Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan has recently echoed the tone of his son Chirag Paswan, saying the NDA, which suffered a setback in Bihar and UP by-elections, should follow its ‘sabka saath sabka vikas’ slogan in letter and spirit.

“NDA needs to take along all sections of the society. Congress also ruled the country for several decades by building an inclusive society,” Paswan told reporters at Patna airport.

He said the defeat of BJP in Phulpur and Gorakphur Lok Sabha byelections in UP was a cause for concern. He, however, attributed BJP’s loss in Araria parliamentary constituency in Bihar to sympathy for RJD’s Taslimuddin, whose death necessitated the bypoll.

Asked about TDP’s exit from NDA, Paswan said had the Centre accepted Andhra Pradesh’s demand for special category status, the agitation would have spread to Bihar.

“Everyone is free to go wherever they want, but LJP is with NDA,” he said. On Friday, Chirag Paswan had said the BJP should rework its strategy following its defeat in UP bypolls.

The Rashtriya Lok Samata Party led by Union minister Upendra Kushwaha-led Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) moved closer to the RJD .

The human chain formed in Patna by Union minister Upendra Kushwaha-led Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) and joined by RJD functionaries triggered speculations of political realignments in the state.

RJD senior functionaries Shivanand Tiwary and Ram Chandra Purbey, along with their many party workers, joined hands with Kushwaha on the Miller School ground in Patna while none of the Bihar NDA constituents — BJP, JD(U), LJP and HAM-S — participated in the human chain organized by the Union minister of state for HRD to spread awareness about the need for educational reforms and importance of various provisions of Right to Education Act.

It was only on Monday that RJD vice-president Raghuvansh Prasad Singh said Kushwaha and Manjhi were in talks with his party and could also join hands soon. However, Manjhi and Kushwaha had refuted the Singh's claim. Incidentally, Kushwaha and CM Nitish have been at loggerheads since 2013 when RLSP was formed after JD(U) had terminated his Rajya Sabha membership for alleged anti-party activities. Also, his supporters in Koeri caste which he belongs to want to fulfil their political aspirations through Kushwaha.

On record, Kushwaha scoffed at speculations regarding any political realignment. The Union minister said he had invited all the political parties to support and join the RLSP human chain and "senior leaders of some" NDA constituents had also supported his cause. "The senior leaders of some political parties may have had other engagements. But they had supported our cause and without their ground-level workers, the human chain would not have been a grand success. Sincere thanks to Tiwaryji and Purbeyji for joining the human chain."

· RJD's Tiwary also said "the stage has not yet reached for any such political realignment. At present, it is media speculation".

Asked for comments, state JD(U) spokesman Ajay Alok said, "Wolf (RJD) and deer (Kushwaha) cannot sit together. We did not join Kushwaha-sponsored human chain due to the presence of RJD as under their rule, education was systematically destroyed in the state."

The elevation of Mirzapur MP Anupriya Patel as a minister in the Narendra Modi government has brought a fresh focus on her ongoing feud with her mother Krishna Patel over the ownership of the Apna Dal.

Not only has the Apna Dal faction led by Krishna Patel now snapped ties with the BJP in Uttar Pradesh, it also alleged that the saffron party “deceived” it and orchestrated the rift in her party to stake claim to the legacy of Sone Lal Patel, the founder of the Apna Dal and a prominent Kurmi leader in Purvanchal.

Krishna Patel said the BJP rewarded her daughter with a ministerial berth merely to poach the vote bank of the Apna Dal. “If they had to choose a Kurmi minister, why didn’t they do it from among their own stock of senior leaders? They have at least 5-6 MPs and MLAs from the caste. Santosh Gangwar, who was a Cabinet Minister, was demoted to a MoS. Vinay Katiyar was an MP. The BJP is engaging in a war for votes.”

Krishna Patel accused the BJP of escalating the rift between her and Ms. Anupriya Patel and trying to capture the mass support of her husband. “They know Sone Lal Patel had a big clout in Purvanchal where Kurmi voters are in good numbers and he is honoured. With that in mind, they planned to break away Anupriya. The BJP used all its force to break away Anupriya.”

The Apna Dal supported the BJP in 2014 and got two seats in return. But, soon after the polls, a factional feud emerged between Anupriya Patel and her mother over the control of the party. Relations soured to the extent that in May 2015, Krishna Patel expelled her daughter from the party after they disagreed over the appointment of her sister Pallavi as the party’s national vice-president.

Since then both have staked claim to be the party president and a legal battle is on over it. While Ms. Krishna Patel contends that her daughter no longer has a stake in the Apna Dal, the MP’s bio-data on the Lok Sabha website still shows her as an Apna Dal member.

The BJP has tried to project Anupriya Patel as the true heir of Sone Lal Patel’s legacy and last week party president Amit Shah even addressed a rally in Varanasi on the 67th birth anniversary of the Kurmi leader.

Krishna Patel, however, has said her faction of the Apna Dal will not support the BJP, even as she pronounced her party as the true Apna Dal. “Some may have left due to greed but 80 per cent of the workers still support me. Our MP from Pratapgarh, Haribansh Singh, is also cooperating with me,” she said.

The leader said the BJP had abandoned coalition dharma. “Ever since we formed the alliance, we did not get any response from the BJP in any small or major work. No BJP MLA or MP supported my workers or gave me any response or participation in meetings,” Ms. Krishna Patel said.

With Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, himself a Kurmi, making forays into east Uttar Pradesh, there are speculations that Krishna Patel could align or merge with him for the 2017 elections. But she strongly dismissed any merger and said the priority of her party over the next couple of months would be to “strengthen the organisation.”

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