NCP-Shiv Sena-Congress alliance members
NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray and other leaders during a meeting of the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress alliance, Mumbai | Photo: PTI
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When Plan A fails, the back-up plans often don’t work either.

Amit Shah’s first and most fatal calculation was that the Shiv Sena has no options. After Maharashtra assembly results came out on 24 October and the Shiv Sena took to maximalist posturing, Amit Shah didn’t feel the need to give in to its blackmail. He didn’t massage its ego, assuage its concerns, didn’t take that flight to Mumbai, that drive to Matoshree to bend before Uddhav Thackeray with folded hands.

Amit Shah seems to have thought the Shiv Sena needed the BJP more than the BJP needed the Shiv Sena. The pressure from the Congress MLAs, however, gave the Shiv Sena a lifeline. The Congress MLAs wanted the fruits of power.

Plan B

When the NCP and the Congress surprisingly came onboard, Amit Shah was check-mated. Not one to give up, he came up with Plan B, wooing Sharad Pawar. Surely, Pawar didn’t talk about farmers’ issues when he met the Prime Minister in Parliament just a week ago. Sharad Pawar’s statements around the time of the meeting sounded vague.

A little birdie tells us what happened in the meeting. According to this source, Sharad Pawar told the Prime Minister he was open to an alliance with the BJP if it could make him an offer better than the one he already had. Pawar hinted the BJP would have to offer him the chief minster’s chair. Amit Shah was also pulled into the meeting, but the duo refused.


Also read: Ajit Pawar saved himself but BJP stands completely exposed now, Shiv Sena says in Saamana


Plan C

Ajit Pawar was Amit Shah’s Plan C. When the deal with Ajit Pawar was struck, he started calling up NCP MLAs he considered loyal to him. To split the NCP without incurring the wrath of the anti-defection law, the BJP needed 36 MLAs. Ajit Pawar showed in a few hours he commanded the loyalty of at least 11, said the source. It seemed a risk worth taking. Besides, he already had the signatures of all the NCP MLAs to use before the governor, thus enabling an immediate invite to Devendra Fadnavis to take oath.

The same evening, Sharad Pawar showed he had almost all the MLAs with him. In such situations, MLAs usually go where they think government formation is more likely. That is why it was important for the BJP to have Devendra Fadnavis immediately sworn-in.

But the NCP MLAs knew they got their votes in the name of Sharad Pawar, not Ajit Pawar. When all the machinations are done, the victors in politics are those who have mass support.

Plan C also failed, the BJP had clearly over-estimated Ajit Pawar’s hold over the NCP MLAs.

Legitimising an unholy alliance

The BJP’s abrasive midnight coup crossed all limits of morality. Revoking President’s rule, accepting shady paperwork from Ajit Pawar, inviting Fadnavis to form government and having him sworn-in — all of this between dinner and breakfast showed Modi-Shah as hungry power-grabbers, who will do anything to get another chief minister’s office under their belt.

In the 79 hours that Devendra Fadnavis was chief minister for a second term, the Maharashtra ACB closed some corruption investigations pertaining to the NCP’s previous stint in power.

This unseemly show has legitimised what seemed until the other day an unholy alliance. The dominant BJP uses its muscle so brazenly that it pushes everyone to the wall, forcing erstwhile foes to come together in an unlikely alliance.


Also read: Maharashtra crisis should push Supreme Court to upgrade 1994 Bommai judgment guidelines


What changed between 2014 and 2019

If there is an ideological contradiction in the Congress and the NCP supporting a Shiv Sena government, there is also a glue: the shared fear that the BJP is out to finish us all. If anti-BJPism is becoming a raison d’être for non-BJP parties, the BJP has only itself to blame.

The BJP’s illegitimate attempts at splitting the NCP MLAs have given the NCP a reason to help make this alliance work. It has left the NCP with a cause to work towards: keeping the BJP out. The NCP workers were seen shouting slogans in Mumbai Tuesday, saying Sharad Pawar was Modi-Shah’s ‘baap’ (father). In 2014, Sharad Pawar was offering to support the BJP, to keep the Shiv Sena out. He enabled a BJP minority government to win a trust vote, leaving the Shiv Sena with no option but to come around on the BJP’s terms.

What has changed between 2014 and 2019 is that friends and foes alike don’t trust Modi-Shah. That is why Indian politics has seen the rise of a new paradigm: anti-BJPism. The new polarisation is not Hindutva versus secularism, since everyone has embraced saffron, including the Congress. Indian politics is now divided between those who surrender before the brute power of Modi-Shah and those who fight back. (Those who just sit and twiddle their thumbs are in the surrender category.)

Bringing friends and foes together 

For the Congress party, whose irrelevance in Indian politics threatens its very existence, there was no option but to trust Sharad Pawar to go with the Shiv Sena. At a time when the Modi government is putting senior Congress leaders in jail, what incentive does the Congress have to not prevent a BJP government in Maharashtra? Even if that means walking with the Shiv Sena.

On its part, the Shiv Sena was being pushed to the wall like no one else. Not so long ago, it was the senior ally of the BJP in Maharashtra. Not only did the BJP make it the junior partner in the alliance, but also made it clear the alliance was based on a use-and-throw principle. So, the BJP was nice to the Shiv Sena when it needed the party before the Lok Sabha elections. Once it won 303 seats on its own, it gave the Shiv Sena only one cabinet berth. One ministry for 18 Lok Saha MPs. The Akali Dal also got one ministry with just 2 MPs.

Since the rise of Modi in 2014, the Shiv Sena has had good reasons to fear that the BJP wants to finish off the Shiv Sena. It was for survival that it joined hands with the NCP and the Congress — not an easy decision for the party, either.

For the BJP, the lesson from Maharashtra is – wield your power lightly. If you leave people with nothing to lose, they’re definitely going to hit back for sheer survival.


Also read: Behind Ajit Pawar’s call to resign — a nudge from ‘Pratibha tai’, Sharad Pawar’s wife


Views are personal.

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18 Comments Share Your Views

18 COMMENTS

  1. India is a BIG country with its NOrth, South, East and West. It is NOT a Hindu / Hindi natio , It is not made of BIMARU states, Maharashtra and Gujarat and it is most certainly NOT bilingual. You like Hindi, run a Hindi paper or publish 28 language.

  2. it is premature to say anything. Shiv Sena walked out of a prepoll alliance and won the mandate, It tried to arm twist but BJP at one point of time or the other has to get rid of its quarelling and criticising partner. Better to separate than continuing uncomfortable alliance. Shiv Seba lost its honour by allying with congress whose credentials of support is well proved beyond doubt. Charan Singh, Chandra Sekhar, Deve Gowda at centre recently in Karnataka. It is very disciplined and take instruction from one dictator family. So it depends upon its whims and fancies. Uddhav Takrey never came out of Matoshri and every one used to visit it for his nod. Now he is with a begging bowl before NCO and Congress and daily have a menu of their choice. Is it not selling self respect just to get called CM without any actual powers and with remotely controlled by two seasoned politicians? Just like Kumaraswamy weeping in open on dias Thakreys have to weep.
    Amit Shah a clear winner. He has shown his skills in forming a govt, against all odds, made Sharad Pawar to run from pillar to post. Made to every one known what type of person Sharad Pawar was, who intruded his nephew to BJP to steal sensitive files and get out of some scams. But he cannot escape any of the scams and soon will be companion to Chidambaram.

  3. it is premature to say anything. Shiv Sena walked out of a prepoll alliance and won the mandate, It tried to arm twist but BJP at one point of time or the other has to get rid of its quarelling and criticising partner. Better to separate than continuing uncomfortable alliance. Shiv Seba lost its honour by allying with congress whose credentials of support is well proved beyond doubt. Charan Singh, Chandra Sekhar, Deve Gowda at centre recently in Karnataka. It is very disciplined and take instruction from one dictator family. So it depends upon its whims and fancies. Uddhav Takrey never came out of Matoshri and every one used to visit it for his nod. Now he is with a begging bowl before NCO and Congress and daily have a menu of their choice. Is it not selling self respect just to get called CM without any actual powers and with remotely controlled by two seasoned politicians? Just like Kumaraswamy weeping in open on dias Thakreys have to weep.

  4. Expect Shiv Sena to perform miracles for Maharashtra???? Those who want peace in the rough and tumble of politics are either naive or conveniently forget the shenanigans of their own favourite parties.

  5. Who would or should allow? Madam or his son. In one stroke SS vote bank is gone. Pawar and co might survive but how long they can take on the central government when their hands are so dirty. In all the poor voter of Maharashtra is the loser. If anti defection law prohibits breaking of any party post poll, morality should stop breaking of pre poll alliances. After all Uddhav is so fond of that chair and all is happening because of that. Secularism is a word used for convenience in Indian polity.

    • Judging from your post will it be a fair assumption that you did not approve of BJP “operation kamal” to grab power in Karnataka? Or in Goa? Or in Manipur? Ot its unholy alliance in Jammu & Kashmir? Or that it is in power in Bihar even though it finished last in the poll and the mandate was for mahagathbandhan? Need more examples?

  6. Having said what u said, means that resp the mandate of people is of no concern, even if it was so decisive in favour of BJP. So basically , 3 failed students have combined their marks to top the class. This is the 1st time this has happened. Powerplay can be justified if there wasn’t a decisive mandate, not in this case. Eg of Karnataka , Goa are diff , nobody there got mandate. What just happened in mah shows that will of the people no weight. I think for SS and Congress this will be a phyrric victory. Also, it shows complete hollowness of agenda for non-bjp parties. Semblance of post- emergency janta govt. Alas, foundations are so weak for this anti- one party edifice being conjured.

  7. Let them work in peace. But the question is how long will the government last. Undoubtedly, Sharad Pawar has outfoxed his rivals in the BJP. But in the end what has he achieved? All he gets is average 50plus seats in the assembly. Shiv Sena also had a below average performance in the current election. The Congress was a poor fourth with just 44 seats. The combine has inherent contradictions. Come the next election and the combination will crumble. The seat sharing is just not possible as NCP and Shiv Sena fight for the same political space. In contrast, BJP and Sena compliment each other. In Mumbai and surrounding areas, BJP gets North Indian and Gujarati votes and the Sena gets Marathi votes. Now this has been spoiled. Perhaps we need have to wait that long. Just wait and see.

  8. This is good analysis , but does not go the distance , due to the authors rabid anti Modi stance .What was on witness was naked Bharatnatyam for power .In this Mahabharata there were multiple draupadis, though each willing to undress even further to get a chance to sit on the throne of hastinapur sorry mumbai .While the Ram temple is being built for the ascetic Ram , Duryodhana with his Mama would not have been a match for all these characters .Like mark twain said fact is stranger than fiction because facts do not have the obligation of sticking to possibilities .Nobody in this machiavellian play has come out looking like ‘public servants”

  9. Same argument was there when Karnataka happened. We all know what is the result. This will also go the same way. Anyways Sonia baptised one more party as secular in India.

  10. In the 79 hours that Devendra Fadnavis was chief minister for a second term, the image of BJP, so carefully built up by Shah-Modi became tarnished even in the eyes of former supporters nation-wide. Has Shah become too arrogant? Has Modi lst his magic? Will this translate to votes for opposition? are EVMs really rigged?

  11. There should be fresh elections. Let president’s rule be there for six months, but fresh elections immediately after this. If we are to call ourselves a democracy.

    70% conversion of sests which BJP contested (164) compared to 40 % of other three shows where the peoples ‘ mandate lies.

  12. The new government should be allowed to work in peace. Average citizens may not be filled with admiration and reverence for such an extreme form of politicking.

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