The JD(S) was formally admitted into the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) on Friday, six months ahead of the general election. The decision is likely to have a significant impact on the 28 Lok Sabha seats in Karnataka, the only state in southern India where the BJP can claim to be in pole position. But the BJP-JD(S) alliance is significant for it also suggests that the BJP is eager to expand the NDA. Since the formation of the INDIA, the Opposition coalition, the BJP has not let go of any opportunity to showcase its leadership of the NDA. In July, an event was organised in Delhi to mark 25 years of NDA, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed that no political coalition in the country has lasted this long.
After winning a simple majority in 2014, the BJP sought to expand its footprint across the country, including in states where it was a junior partner to an NDA ally, often ignoring the latter’s claims and concerns. This led to a falling out with the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, Janata Dal United in Bihar, and the Akali Dal in Punjab. The NDA was allowed to slip into insignificance after the BJP won 303 seats in 2019. Now, efforts are on to consolidate the NDA. The alliance was reconstituted in Maharashtra with breakaway groups of the Shiv Sena and the Nationalist Congress Party. In Tamil Nadu, the BJP central leadership has not allowed the war of words between its state leaders and the AIADMK lead to a breakdown in relations. Two factors could explain the BJP’s renewed interest in the NDA. One, it recognises that there are many states in India where it will require a strong regional ally to win office. Two, leading a coalition with multiple regional parties could help neutralise the perception that the party is against all forms of federal assertions.