NDA partners doubt BJP will get majority on its own

New Delhi: Key Bharatiya Janata Party allies have taken to a cautious path, saying the NDA will form the next government but the BJP, unlike in 2014, will not be able to win a parliamentary majority on its own.

Shiromani Akali Dal’s Naresh Gujral said in a recent interview to a TV channel that no single party would get a majority in the election but couched that by saying that the NDA would get the numbers to form the next government.

He had said the BJP would fall short of absolute majority but the NDA would be able to form a stable coalition government with allies. He described himself as a realist while making the remark.

SAD is one of the oldest allies of the BJP and has been able to paper over the occasional differences between them.

Gujral’s comments came against the backdrop of BJP general secretary Ram Madhav’s remarks that the party would fall short of the majority mark in the elections.

Madhav’s comments appeared to give voice to the anxiety within the ruling party that the BJP would not be able to repeat its 2014 performance and this could trigger a search for suitable allies who could then ask for plum cabinet berths in return for their support.

Another old ally, the Janata Dal (United), has been just about as forthcoming about the BJP’s electoral prospects.

K.C. Tyagi, senior JD(U) leader, has told the media that the BJP will have reduced numbers this time compared to 2014 but not to the point that it will not be able to form the government.

However, his party colleague Gulam Rasool Balyavi, was more direct, saying the NDA itself would fall short of a majority in the Lok Sabha. He went a step further to state that Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar should be fronted as the coalition’s prime ministerial candidate — hinting that this would help it to bring in new allies and get the required numbers to form the government.

“The statement (by Ram Madhav) rings true. This is what I currently sense in the country. The National Democratic Alliance will form the government with the BJP as the single-largest party, but it will be somewhat difficult for the BJP to win 280-plus votes,” Mr Raut told NDTV.

The Shiv Sena allied with the BJP for the Lok Sabha elections two months ago despite differences that had cropped up between the two parties in the wake of the 2014 polls.

Raut saw opposition alliances across the country as one of the reasons for the arithmetical shift that would deprive the BJP of a clear majority. “We do believe that the National Democratic Alliance will cross the 300 mark but the BJP will fall short due to this very reason,” he said, adding that regional parties across various states will emerge stronger in the ongoing elections.

Sanjay Raut of the Shiv Sena, like other BJP allies, also agrees that the BJP would fall short of an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha and would therefore need the support of allies to form the next government. In a recent interview to a TV channel, he said it would be difficult for the BJP to repeat its 2014 performance.

However, like the other NDA partners, he said the alliance would pull through and form the next government.

These allies have also introduced an ambiguity over the NDA’s prime ministerial candidate, saying whoever is picked would be acceptable to the allies but he would need to take everyone along, one ally has said.

At least one ally has made it plain that there will be some arm-twisting for ministerial portfolios. Gujral said in a recent media interview that his party represented farmers and would demand key portfolios related to agriculture.