Also, BJP plans to woo other parties in order to widen the alliance.
After reaching out to alliance partners Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in Punjab, Bharatiya Janata Party chief Amit Shah is likely to meet JDU leader and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, as part of his exercise to put the NDA (National Democratic Alliance) in order ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha election. The BJP does not want to take any chances in the wake of a united Opposition shaping up against it.
The BJP has been trying to reach out to its allies in order to ensure that existing NDA partners remain intact during the 2019 election. It is also planning to woo other parties that have maintained an equidistance from the BJP and the Congress, in order to widen the alliance. The BJP leadership believes that there should not be any split in the votes as the entire Opposition is getting united.
As part of its strategy to reach out to its allies, BJP president Amit Shah met Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and SAD leaders Prakash Singh Badal and his son Sukhbir Singh Badal this week. Though a date has not been fixed for a meeting between Shah and Nitish Kumar, sources said it may happen soon. Shah is likely to meet leaders of other alliance partners as well.
As a precursor to a Shah-Kumar meeting, a dinner party was hosted by the Bihar BJP for NDA leaders in Patna this week, which was attended by Nitish Kumar, BJP’s Sushil Modi and Lok Janshakti Party leader Ram Vilas Paswan. However, the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) leader Upendra Kushwaha was conspicuous by his absence. There have been troubles within the alliance, with Paswan and Kushwaha indicating that they could desert the NDA before the elections.
“We have seen how Congress and other Opposition parties have firmed up their cooperation. In Karnataka, the Congress did not stake the claim for Chief Minister’s post, despite the party having more numbers than the JDS. Similarly, the Opposition unity in the recent bypolls in UP—Kairana, Gorakhpur and Phulpur—has shown that it has the potential to upset our apple cart. Therefore, we cannot afford to take any chances,” said a BJP source.
At present, there are 16 parties under the NDA fold, which have members in either House of Parliament. However, there are 32 more parties in the alliance across the country, which do not have a presence in Parliament. In the Lok Sabha, the total strength of the NDA is 315. Besides Shiv Sena (18 Lok Sabha members), the other major NDA partners are Lok Janshakti Party (6), Shiromani Akali Dal (4), Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (3), Apna Dal (2), and JDU (2).
There have been problems in neighbouring Jharkhand as well, where All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU), which is a part of the NDA, feels the BJP did not support its chief Sudesh Mahato in the recently held Silli Assembly byelection, leading to his defeat. The AJSU candidate suffered a defeat also in Gomia. Sources said Shah may meet leaders of AJSU and also the Mehbooba Mufti led People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Jammu & Kashmir.
It is to be noted that the BJP lost its biggest ally in the South, Telugu Desam Party (TDP), while its relationship with Shiv Sena has been turbulent. The two parties fought each other in the Palghar Lok Sabha byelection. The BJP won the seat, but Shiv Sena demanded a recounting, while also terming the BJP its “biggest political enemy”.
When asked whether the party is losing the goodwill of the alliance partners, a senior party leader said: “Where is the question of allies leaving us? Except for the TDP, the entire NDA family is intact. Moreover, the loss of TDP has now been compensated by the JDU coming to our fold. So, the NDA is intact.”