Images of Amit Shah reaching out to allies should’ve been routine. Instead, they’ve become exceptions, which is why the BJP president’s meetings with alliance partners this week looks like a rearguard action to show the National Democratic Alliance as one composite entity.
Indeed, this is a case of the BJP chief seeking to shut the stable door after the horse has bolted. The Telugu Desam Party’s Chandrababu Naidu has quit the alliance. Others including the Shiv Sena, the Akali Dal and a few caste-based outfits in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are in deep sulk. The Janata Dal (United) has also moved early to seek primacy in seat sharing in the general elections. These are unwanted, eminently avoidable fissures in the ruling conglomerate.
Elections are a year away. The BJP’s outreach is expedient and is based on the oft-used “better late than never” premise. Alliances being live-in arrangements buoyed by popular approval, it is hard to predict the extent to which Shah can undo the damage. The form in which the NDA will enter the poll arena a year down the road will be shaped by the ruling alliance’s traction on the ground.
What should worry the leadership more is the unintended fallout from the intra-NDA rapprochement.
It represents, in perceptional terms, a veritable deconstruction (or rollback) of the BJP’s slogan of “Modi versus the Opposition” gang-up for 2019. The potent line could resonate less in the backdrop of Shah smoking the peace-pipe with estranged alliance partners.
The Prime Minister’s adversaries can now posit the contest as one between them and an alliance that’s unhappy and disunited in his stewardship.