The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) claims the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) now has 28 parties under its fold. However, the boast conceals how a majority of the parties that have joined the alliance are electorally insignificant. Only six of the 28 parties had any presence in the outgoing Lok Sabha.
On Tuesday, BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi had said the NDA had the support of 28 parties. A day before, party President Rajnath Singh had said the number of NDA allies was 25. The discrepancy in numbers aside, both tried to tell the world that the NDA under its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi was no more “untouchable” and was expanding and attracting new allies from across India.
However, the NDA isn’t as healthy as the two would like us to believe. Here is an analysis of how most of the 28 parties are either nascent or enjoy limited support base or are not contesting the Lok Sabha polls.
A closer look at the list also reveals Singh’s estimate of 25 to be more accurate than that of Naqvi’s. Naqvi counted National People’s Party and National People’s Party (Meghalaya) as two distinct entities, which they aren’t. The list also includes the Northeast Regional Political Front as a member of the NDA. However, the front is an alliance of 10 Northeastern political parties with Nagaland CM Neiphiu Rio as its convener. The alliance includes Rio-led Naga People's Front, which has an alliance with the BJP, but also parties like Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) that don’t.
Of the rest, the NDA is facing some confusion in Puducherry. The Union Territory has only one Lok Sabha seat. The ruling All-India N R Congress has fielded its candidate, but so has NDA ally PMK. MDMK, another NDA ally, has announced its support to the PMK candidate. BJP spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi said the party state unit was trying to resolve the matter.
The NDA has one-fourth of its allies from Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. It has four allies in Maharashtra, three in Northeast, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha in West Bengal, Maharashtra Gomantak Party in Goa, one in UP, Shiromani Akali Dal in Punjab, two in Andhra Pradesh, two in Kerala, two in Bihar and one in Haryana.
The party wanted to strike an alliance with the Indian National Lok Dal in Haryana but couldn’t, as it had already tied up with the latter’s rival the Haryana Janhit Congress. The BJP is confident the INLD will support an NDA government at the Centre. Of the 28, the BJP is the only national party. Barely a dozen are state parties and the rest unrecognised registered parties.
BJP leaders conceded that most of the parties in its coalition might not get more than a seat — and many might draw a blank. “But these alliances are important. All of these parties have dedicated vote banks in their areas of dominance, and these are votes that these parties can transfer to the BJP,” said a senior Bihar BJP leader. He cited examples of Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and Upendra Kushwaha-led Rashtriya Loksamata Party. He said the Paswan community in Bihar comprised 50,000 to 60,000 voters in a majority of Bihar’s 40 seats. The Kushwaha community also has a sizeable presence in several of the seats. The BJP has allocated seven seats to LJP. “These votes will help BJP candidates,” said the leader.
In UP, the BJP’s tie-up with the Apna Dal is based on a similar logic. The Apna Dal, a party of Kurmis which are an OBC community, is contesting two seats in eastern UP. It has a support base of a lakh or more in several of Eastern UP’s 28-seats. It even boasts of having won an MLA seat in the Varanasi Lok Sabha constituency. The BJP-Apna Dal alliance has made Modi’s victory there much more assured.
The alliances in Maharashtra with the Republican Party of India (Athawale), Rashtriya Samaj Paksha and Swabhiman Paksha are also based on caste alliances. RPI has a good support among Dalits and the BJP brought its leader Ramdas Athavale to the Rajya Sabha earlier this year. The other two parties have support among peasants.
The BJP hopes scattered votes of all the six Tamil Nadu parties will come together to ensure the victory in at least half-a-dozen of the state’s 39 seats.
In Kerala, the BJP leadership says its candidate O Rajagopal could even defeat Congress’s Shashi Tharoor in Thiruvananthapuram.
As for the Northeastern parties, they contest in states which, barring Assam, have one or two seats each.
Beyond this list, the BJP can also be sure of the support of the Indian National Lok Dal in a post-poll scenario. Punjab CM Prakash Singh Badal has spoken of this possibility. INLD was part of the NDA government. The BJP couldn't tie up with INLD despite its desire to do so because of its existing alliance with the Haryana Janhit Congress.
The BJP leadership, however, is conscious that it would need more allies if it is to form a government at the Centre. Potential post-poll allies could be from AIADMK, DMK, Trinamool Congress, Biju Janata Dal and Kashmir's People's Democratic Party. However, neither Trinamool nor BJD have shown any keenness yet while AIADMK is a partner that BJP knows can be unreliable.
BJP's list of 28-party NDA as of today
2. Shiv Sena: traditional BJP ally, will be the senior partner in the assembly election in the state later this year
3. Republican Party of India (A): leader Ramdas Athawale brought into RS by BJP, commands substantial dalit following
4. Rashtriya Samaj Paksha: founded in 2003, has an MLA in the current assembly, its leader contested against Sharad Pawar in 2009 LS polls and got nearly 10 percent votes
5. Swabhiman Paksha: a peasant party, leader Raju Shetty was an MP in outgoing LS
6. MDMK: One MP in outgoing LS, leader Vaiko commands support in pockets
7. DMDK: Captain Vijaykant is said to have nearly a 10 percent vote base in the state
8. KMDK: New
9. PMK: presence in Vanniyar community, won 5 seats in TN and 1 in Pondicherry in 2004 in alliance with DMK
10. Indhiya Jananayaka Katchi (IJK): promoted by SRM group, founded in 2011, first LS elections, allotted one seat in the alliance
11. New Justice Party: founded in 2001, will contest from Vellore
12. All India N.R. Congress: runs the government in the UT, will contest the lone Puducherry seat
13. Revolutionary Socialist Party (Bolshevik): breakaway from RSP in 2001, fringe party in the state
14. Kerala Congress (Nationalist): another fringe party with marginal influence
15. TDP: hopes to win substantial seats in Telangana, BJP's biggest alliance partner in terms of number of seats it will contest
16. Jan Sena Party: party floated by actor Pawan Kalyan in March
17. Lok Janshakti Party: led by Ram Vilas Paswan, will fight seven seats, had no MPs in outgoing Lok Sabha, influence among Paswan community
18. Rashtriya Loksamata Party: influence among OBC kushwaha community, will contest a couple of seats
19. Shiromani Akali Dal: traditional ally
20. Haryana Janhit Congress: ally of the last few years, forced BJP to not strike alliance with INLD
21. Apna Dal: base among Kurmis, will contest two seats
22. Gorkha Janmukti Morcha: BJP's SS Ahluwalia to contest from Darjeeling with GJM's support
23. National People's Party (Meghalaya): P. Sangma-led party, contesting from his traditional Tura seat
24. National People's Party (not different from above but listed as a separate party in BJP's list)
25. Naga People's Front (Nagaland): runs the government in the state, contesting one seat in Nagaland
26. United Democratic Front (Mizoram): an eight party alliance-led by Mizo National Front with BJP as a junior partner, will contest the state's lone seat
27. Northeast Regional Political Front: a 10-member political front comprising NE parties, including the three abovementioned NE parties
28. Maharashtra Gomantak Party: BJP's alliance partner in Goa government, not contesting LS polls