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Keeping its flock united will be NDA’s major challenge | India News

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NEW DELHI: The bypoll setbacks in UP and elsewhere have put the spotlight on BJP’s need to expand its alliance and maintain equilibrium with allies such as Shiv Sena, JD(U) and the Akalis in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Though all three major BJP allies have not done well in the byelections, reducing their scope for bargaining or carping, the saffron party needs to hold on to to them and work on curtailing areas of friction that have been building up.

The toughest challenge is Shiv Sena that has refused to reconcile to being replaced as the senior partner in Maharashtra and continues to attack BJP leaders including PM Narendra Modi on a regular basis. Sena will remain a challenge right till the Lok Sabha campaign begins as it seeks to “correct” what it sees as an imbalance in the coalition.

BJP chief Amit Shah has often played down the emergence of a grand alliance as several regional parties, setting aside their differences, have pledged to pose a united front to prevent the Modi government from returning to office. Despite having turned the tables on RJD by re-allying with JD(U) in Bihar, frictions have erupted time and again, the latest with Nitish Kumar’s statement that the benefits of demonetisation had not materialised as the banking system did not cooperate.

The Akalis have also been chaffing since Congress under Amarinder Singh swept back to office in Punjab, and its leaders have tended to target BJP which now needs to keep its flock together, particularly after the bitter exit of TDP leader N Chandrababu Naidu.

The party now faces an uphill task in UP, where it has lost three Lok Sabha seats. Kairana was seen as the epicentre of polarisation politics but party candidate Mriganka Singh lost to RLD candidate Tabassum Hasan, a result of the opposition banding together.

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BJP had swept the Lok Sabha polls in UP in 2014, winning 73 of the 80 seats with its allies. It can take some solace from the likelihood of seat sharing issues between SP and BSP.

BJP ally Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party leader Om Prakash Rajbhar has carried out a sustained campaign against the Yogi Adityanth government despite being a cabinet minister.

In Bihar, JD(U) has started flexing muscles by renewing its demand for special status — an issue similar to the one raised by Naidu for Andhra Pradesh. BJP may need to be more accommodative given the fact that other regional parties like Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP and Upendra Kushwaha’s RLSP could express empathy with the demand.

Updated: May 31, 2018 — 9:25 pm

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