Why is it easier for Congress to hold on to its allies as compared to the BJP?

A comparison of the allies of NDA and UPA throws an interesting observation. The UPA allies are more supportive of the Congress than the NDA allies are of the BJP. Rather some of them are more critical than even opposition parties as far as the BJP is concerned. Also, the allies of the Congress have a more loyal and stable bond with it than do the allies of the BJP with their main alliance partner. Whether it is KCR in Telangana state or Didi in West Bengal and Naidu in Andhra, the Congress party is an immediate threat. In spite of this, they seem to be willing to do business with the party, whereas with the BJP, the reverse seems to be the case. Why is it so?

The answer to this lies in recent political history.

Let us examine it from the ‘Grand old party’s’ side first. The Congress was for the first time decimated in a southern stronghold, Tamil Nadu, a half-century back by the DMK. Today, it is one of its most stable alliance partners. Lalu Yadav sent the congress packing from Bihar and so did Mulayam in UP. Today, both of them are either in alliance or at least friendly parties for the Congress. And at the same time, it has gone from bad to worse in all these states. All that the Congress could bargain for in these states would be a few seats; that is all. Yet, in election after election, it continues to ride piggy-back on these parties without ever bothering to build itself organizationally. So it is that these regional parties do not consider it as a threat.

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The case of the BJP is entirely different. It is a party that is hungry for growth. Even where it is in an alliance, it continues to strive for its own growth. In some cases, it has even outgrown its partner; for example, the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra. That is why it is feared by foes and friends alike. Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal fears the BJP more than the CPM or the Congress for this reason. So do the likes of Naveen, Nitish, Naidu, Uddhav or the Akalis.

Another possible reason is that while it may be ready to bend a little, it will not bow. Within reasonable limits, it may be willing to accommodate, but beyond that, it is ready to let go and move on. Thus, it looks at its own long-term growth and is ready to forego the short-term gains of appeasement, accepting the setbacks. The party also, by now, fully aware that the parties come to it only when it is strong enough to form a government and are ever ready to ditch at a convenient moment, never relies on them for strength. While alliance can bring numbers, strength can only come from within and by its own growth.

On the other hand, it is the other way round with Congress. An alliance with the party has strengthened the regional parties to its detriment, to the extent of its near annihilation. Thus while it may continue to be a darling of its allies, it can never hope to come to power in any of these states on its own or even as a dominant alliance partner, neither now nor even in the near future.

Thus, while the BJP is a potential future threat, with the Congress, it is different. It is the Congress’ previous umbrella vote bank that the regional parties have actually poached about which it is not bothered.

While this entire debate can be viewed from a loyalty perspective, it is also noteworthy that it is also the confidence of BJP that makes it difficult for allies to keep their ties with the party intact. BJP, for now, is confident of winning state elections, and perhaps also the national election in 2019 all by itself. A threat the regional allies might not be willing to accept.


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