Still reeling under the Jharkhand debacle, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) may face more trouble from NDA allies in several other states following the Cabinet's go-ahead to the National Population Register (NPR) in the country.
In the tribal state, the saffron party decided to go solo after severing ties with its long-time ally, All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU). The party received a strong drubbing at the hands of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), Congress and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD).
The results also showed that BJP’s failure to cobble up an alliance with AJSU cost them dearly, especially in constituencies dominated by the Kurmi community. Though negligible forces in the state, JD(U) and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), too, walked away from the alliance after the seat-sharing talks collapsed.
Sanjay Kumar of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) says that Jharkhand results once again underline the significance of regional allies.
“The message for the BJP is that if you are in the business of coalition politics, and if your support base is not enough to get a majority on your own, then you have to respect the allies and keep them together,” says Kumar.
With the Bihar elections scheduled next year, the disgruntled JD (U) is going to be a major headache for BJP, which cannot wish away a tall leader like Nitish Kumar.
Kumar, after facing flak from own party leaders and opposition for supporting CAA in the Parliament, has already attempted damage control by announcing that he won't implement NRC in Bihar.
JD (U)’s senior leaders such as Pavan Varma and Prashant Kishore have already expressed their disenchantment with Kumar's decision to support CAA. While Varma says that he is contemplating the future course of action, the party has managed to pacify Kishore, who offered resignation on the issue. Varma told Outlook in an interview last week that JD (U) has compromised on its ideological position by voting for CAA.
“Supporting CAA is opening the road to the nationwide NRC, which is dangerous and wrong for the country. My position is completely at odds with the party's”, Varma said.
Another JDU leader KC Tyagi is also categorically against the implementation of NRC in Bihar. He, however, defends the decision to support CAA in the Parliament.
“NRC was done in Assam following the direction of the Supreme Court and of the 19 lakh excluded, around 15 lakh were Hindus. So, the BJP government decided not to implement it in Assam. When Assam is not implementing it on the directive of SC, how can you expect Bihar to do it?” he asks.
Even though the differences between the BJP and its allies have come out in the public, it's the first time when some of them are issuing statements making their position clear on NRC and CAA.
Tyagi maintains the agenda of a political party can’t be the agenda of the nation. He says the BJP needs to be more accommodative of its allies. “BJP and JD (U) are different political outfits. More consultation and discussions are needed with the coalition partners. We stand by the constitution and we have made it very clear that we are not for a Hindu Rashtra and we stand for our Republic,” he says adding the party has always registered its disagreement on various issues.
“Whether it’s UCC or Article 370, we have always communicated our opinion across to BJP”.
The reverberations of Jharkhand elections will be strongly felt in Bihar, says Sanjay Kumar.
He says the JD (U) is in a better bargaining position in Bihar, even more after the results. “BJP is on the back foot when it comes to working out the seat-sharing formula with its allies LJP and JDU. JDU will be slightly on the offensive after Jharkhand, and they have seen how BJP performed when they went alone in Haryana,” says Kumar.
BJP’s another long-time ally Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has already conveyed its reservations about NRC and demanded Muslims be included in the CAA.
Though the rift between BJP and SAD has come out in the open many a time in the past, party chief Sukhdev Singh Badal has openly registered its opposition this time.
Senior SAD leader and Rajya Sabha MP Naresh Gujral, too, last week told Outlook that the minorities needed to be taken into consideration.