The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Alliance to reliance
- Weakened partners follow the leader meekly

New Delhi, April 9: Six years of marriage with the BJP has shown its allies who wears the trousers in the National Democratic Alliance.

The allies have now become the big brother’s “B-team”, as evident from the NDA manifesto released yesterday. Their ideological opposition to the Sangh parivar appears to have crumbled in the face of a shrinking base in the states.

As recent as last year, Sangh parivar issues such as Ayodhya and cow protection were anathema to almost all the allies, except the Shiv Sena. They had even opposed the “hardline” agenda umpteen times on the floor of Parliament.

With top NDA leaders such as George Fernandes, . Chandrababu Naidu and Mamata Banerjee apparently becoming dependent on the BJP, the allies have now also shed their opposition to L.K. Advani’s brand of “Hindutva”.

For instance, chief ministers Naidu and Naveen Patnaik, of the Biju Janata Dal, showed up for the deputy Prime Minister’s Bharat Uday yatra when it passed through their states.

Fernandes, however, pulled out all stops by rushing all the way to Nagpur to join Advani.

Faced with “an Atal wave”, the partners, who had the BJP pandering to them five years ago, have grown weak.

A recent survey by Star News has given the allies 66 seats compared to the 118 they won in 1999.

The allies would thus be losing 52 seats while the BJP is projected to gain 29. The tally should, however, be seen in the context of a dwindling NDA, with as many as seven members having left.

The allies’ situation is amply illustrated by the instances of Naidu and Fernandes. “The BJP secured 12 per cent votes for consecutive elections in Andhra Pradesh.

Chandrababu Naidu is critically dependent on those votes. Even a 4-5 per cent swing could create havoc for the Telugu Desam,” an NDA source said.

Naidu is not only facing anti-incumbency and a united Opposition, he is also losing the minority community that is perceived to have moved away from the Desam as it has grown closer to the parivar ideology, the source added.

In Bihar, Fernandes requires BJP votes to win from his new seat of Muzaffarpur as the stock of the Janata Dal (United) has dwindled.

“There was a time when Fernandes could win from any constituency in Bihar, but today he desperately needs the BJP support to transfer upper-caste votes,” a Dal (U) leader said.

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