NDA was filled with many parties when AB Vajpayee had formed govt in 1999. Basically there were two types of parties within the NDA fold. There was one type who believed in coalition dharma and was connected by ideological concerns. And the other type was opportunistically inclined to enjoy the spoils of power. From Chandrababu Naidu to Omar Abdullah, NDA has seen many faces and forms making its rounds. But three parties have been the core of it since a long time and were firmly entrenched in the NDA even if it was out of power and in the opposition. Akali Dal, JD (U) and Shiv Sena in particular did stay in the realms of the NDA. However, the journey of JD (U) and Shiv Sena within the NDA had an uncanny resemblance in the last few years.
Both the political parties had a recent acrimonious patch with the BJP. The players were different, the reasons were contra distinctive and the political theatres too were weaved in different formats.
Shiv Sena broke its alliance with the BJP after Lok Sabha elections and during assembly polls as they thought the BJP is infringing into its space in Maharashtra. Sena has always treated itself as a bullying big brother to the BJP in the alliance and hence the insecurity was profound with Modi Shah Combine at the helm of the BJP.
The JD (U) also broke its alliance with the BJP and the NDA just before the general elections. In their case, PM Modi became the bone of contention here also but the ambitious aspect of Nitish Kumar came into the picture. Somewhere Nitish wanted to be the PM of a possible hypothetical third front and he broke the alliance to nurse his political ambitions. In both the cases of Sena and the JD (U), the expansionism of the BJP in the form of Modi Shah Combination has made them vary and this had resulted into spoiling the NDA apple cart.
Both the Sena and the JD(U) undoubtedly are single leader centric political parties. If the Sena is ship heralded by Uddhav Thackeray, JD (U) has been the fortress of Nitish Kumar. Both these leaders of the parties however are surrounded by a coterie who have influenced their thinking, subverted their vision and somewhere have manipulated their overall scheme of things.
Whilst Uddhav is influenced by Sanjay Raut, Nitish Kumar had been in the vicinity of Sharad Yadav.
Sanjay Raut is basically not a politician but the editor of the Sena mouth piece called Samna. Although he has not fought any election, he has been Uddhav Thackeray’s closest advisor, his eyes and ears. It’s important to note that Sanjay Raut is basically not in favour of the new crop of BJP leadership and his line is resonated by Uddhav Thackeray and his preposterous statements pertaining to PM Modi and the BJP.
The same attribute has been replicated in Bihar where Sharad Yadav had donned the role of Sanjay Raut here. The burning ambitions of Nitish to be the PM and breaking ties with the BJP somewhere were fuelled and nursed by advisors including Sharad Yadav. This led to Nitish Kumar making similar Uddhav like anti-Modi statements in the public domain.
There is nevertheless a fundamental difference between the two leaders in lieu with their advisors. Although Kumar was vehemently opposed to PM Modi and broke alliance with the BJP, very recently he reversed his decision. He now is back after ending his grand coalition govt with the RJD and the Congress. After his ceremonious comeback into the NDA fold, Sharad Yadav still seemed sulking over these unprecedented political turn of events in Bihar. However, Kumar was still firm with his decision. With a seemingly pro BJP and a thunderous Modi wave, it would be suicidal to take an anti BJP stance, more so considering PM Modi is taking some bold steps in the form of popular policies.
Nitish Kumar not only supported PM Modi for his ground breaking policies like the demonetisation but also took subtle steps in ensuring the thaw in the relations was rendered. With respect to the Sena, it is still angry and is opposing every move of the Modi Govt. Uddhav Thackeray unfortunately is known as a cry baby critic of the BJP in spite being a part of the NDA. Thackeray’s coterie symbolised by rants of Sanjay Raut have been quite damaging to its image. In the wake of losing eight out of ten corporations and just managing to win the BMC, the Sena needs BJP to sustain itself and its dwindling political fortunes in the state.
The same situation had happened in Bihar where an opportunist RJD was building its own fortunes over Kumars clean image which he realised and changed tracks. Nitish Kumar understood that in order to survive politically in his own state, joining hands with the BJP was the need of the hour and he overcame his own ego and wilful tactics of people like Sharad Yadav.
The other problem with the Sena is that when it is criticising PM Modi, it’s questioning even his foreign policy and ridiculing many of Modi’s groundbreaking decisions and related achievements. Unfortunately, this will further take a toll on its image which is battered and needs rebuilding exercise. The hovering around of coterie in the form of Sanjay Raut is somewhere responsible for all these misplaced political positions. The Sena has to adapt with the changing political realities of the day. Nititsh Kumar has realised the same and hence has been smart enough to acclimatise to the changing political environment.
It’s amazing that the Sena in spite of being in the NDA has even sided with a party like the TMC to downplay the BJP. In an ever changing political climate it’s important to understand where the wind is blowing. Nitish Kumar has displayed a much needed maturity which is meted with political immaturity with respect to the Shiv Sena. Political advisors play an important role in influencing the minds of the leaders. But sometimes it’s necessary to be in sync with the pulse of the nation rather than sink into advices of unreasonably salacious political conduits.