The National Democratic Alliance may soon have to revive the post of NDA convener for better coordination among political parties gearing up for the 2019 general elections, as non-BJP partners of the NDA are pushing for the revival of the post.
At present, NDA has 16 parties in Parliament. It also has 332 members in the Lok Sabha and 83 in the Rajya Sabha. However, NDA also has 32 more parties that do not have any representation in Parliament. In the Lok Sabha, among the NDA partners, the Shiv Sena has the maximum members, 18, after the BJP, followed by Telugu Desam Party, 16. Currently, BJP president Amit Shah carries out the job of reaching out to alliance partners.
The post of NDA convener used to be crucial during the Atal Behari Vajpayee era. Samata Party leader George Fernandes remained NDA convener for a long time. Former JDU leader Sharad Yadav was the convener till 2013. However, there has been no appointment for the post after the JDU parted ways with the BJP that year. JDU has now returned to the NDA fold.
In fact, after JDU’s return to the NDA fold last year, it was speculated that Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar may be appointed as the NDA convener. Before that, Telugu Desam Party (TDP) leader and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu also lobbied for the post. But no decision was taken.
However, with Opposition parties gearing up for the next year’s general elections, there is a feeling within the non-BJP partners of NDA that there should be perfect coordination within the alliance for better results. This is also important for working out the seat-sharing formula in advance.
“If the BJP decides to appoint an NDA convener, it will be an ideal situation. There should be regular meetings of the parties, their MPs, where the future course of action could be chalked out,” said senior JDU leader K.C. Tyagi. Giving the example of Bihar, where the JDU is running a coalition government, he said: “We keep holding meetings with our alliance partners and there is perfect understanding.” Tyagi, however, clarified that it is for the BJP to decide whether or not to appoint an NDA convener as it is the largest party in the alliance.
Another senior NDA leader said, “There were reports of some misunderstanding between the BJP and Shiv Sena/TDP. I think, this could have been avoided, had there been an NDA convener. As things stand today, the Congress is in a bad shape and the Opposition camp is badly divided. But yet, the NDA should not become slack if it wants to return to power in 2019.” He, however, said the convener should be from a non-BJP party and he should be a leader of stature, acceptable to all the partners.
He said that in the run-up to the general elections, there will be several issues with regard to the alliance, for which a points-man will be needed, and, therefore, a convener should be appointment at the earliest.
BJP leaders refused to comment on the issue. While Sambit Patra could not be contacted, spokespersons G.V.L. Narsimha Rao and Anil Baluni said they would not like to comment on the issue.