What to make of the latest shenanigans of the Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena grand alliance or the Mahayuti in Maharashtra?
To say the least, it’s politics as usual. Or, to put it more bluntly, impolitely, and inelegantly, should Maharashtra voters and the Indian public call it for what it is? Immorality and lust for power at its worst?
Whatever happens by 7.30 pm 11 November, the deadline given by Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari to the Shiv Sena to prove its majority, this much is clear. The BJP, unable to form the government on its own, has passed on the baton to the second-largest party, its NDA electoral ally, the Shiv Sena.
A last-minute patch-up?
What will happen is anybody’s guess. First, owing to last-ditch, behind-the-scene moves, there is some sort of a last-minute patch-up between the NDA allies. Hindutva, after all, cannot be just a matter of expediency. The Shiv Sena can’t simply afford to up and leave the NDA to join hands, literally, with the Congress or the NCP. It will not only disappoint its cadres, but disillusion its support base throughout Maharashtra. Even if it’s an immediate victory, it’ll be a long-term disaster.
Surely, some way must be found to save a 35-year-old alliance, if you count it from their short-term arrangement in 1984.
Else, what’ll happen to the overriding objective of the Shiv Sena’s founder, the legendary Balasaheb Thackeray?
Wasn’t it his dream to found a Hindu Rashtra? Even more passionately, adamantly, and openly than the BJP? The Shiv Sena will lose a lot aligning with those it has called and considered, at least in the past, betrayers of India.
So, there will, must, be a way out.
For instance, as the irrepressible and indomitable Subramanian Swamy said on national TV, the BJP should offer unconditional support to the Shiv Sena. Else, like Chandra Shekhar, who was played by Rajiv Gandhi to break the Janata Dal, the Hindutva alliance will be broken too. Chandra Shekhar headed a lame-duck government supported by the Congress, which helped him break V.P. Singh’s coalition. The Congress supported his tiny band of 64-odd MPs from the outside.
It will be a step back, not just for the Sena, but for the BJP too.
Will the BJP rise to the occasion by deploying tyaga – renunciation – so valuable and integral to Raj Dharma?
Or, will Devendra Fadnavis, otherwise known to be gracious, wise, and tactful, succumb to his will to power, if not the dictates of his party bosses, refusing to cooperate with the Sena’s brute and naked assertion of its right to the chief ministership of Maharashtra?
Will BJP bite the bullet?
The other option is for the BJP to bite the bullet. Ditch the Sena. Forget its much-touted coalition dharma. Seize the opportunity to go it alone. Let’s examine what such a course might augur. In a few months, the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress alliance will unravel, as most such unholy marriages of convenience do. Karnataka being only one recent example. The BJP can sit it out, on the sidelines, enjoy the inevitable falling-apart.
The Shiv Sena would lose. As would the NCP-Congress. Both would look bad in front of the Maharashtra electorate. The BJP would enjoy the spoils of this uncomely uncoupling.
Wouldn’t this serve the BJP’s larger purpose of losing its bad allies? If this experiment in Maharashtra works to its advantage, the next step would be Punjab where the Akali Dal is a drag on the BJP’s electoral prospects. If ground reports are to be believed, the BJP by itself, on its ownsome lonesome, would have done much better than the formidable Captain Amarinder Singh-led Congress in the recent assembly election.
But coalition dharma prevented it from dumping its long-standing ally, the Akali Dal.
In Maharashtra, the situation is even more peculiar. The Sena represents, like the Akalis, a family party. Dynasts, whom the BJP, as a supposedly ideology-driven party, detests.
Isn’t this, therefore, the best time, almost a godsend, to gutter the Sena?
For long, the BJP has been distressed and irritated by the Sena’s unremitting sledging and slanging. The Sena has been an uncomfortable ally, to say the least. Uddhav Thackeray, now in the saffron robes of his father, cuts somewhat of a sorry figure, not to speak of a disagreeable ally.
Isn’t this the best opportunity to get rid of him? Especially, with another Thackeray, Aaditya, also riding on his coattails to take the (dy)nasty forward?
BJP must go it alone
It is for the BJP top brass to take a call on its options. Should they brave it out, going alone in Maharashtra and Punjab, jettisoning regional allies? Or should they, more modestly, continue in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee mould, sticking to old friendships?
Narendra Modi and Amit Shah are the smartest political duo that India has known in a very long time. Surely, going by their track record, they have been proved more astute than commentators and critics of the Indian political scene.
I’m not sure what they’ll do. But I know that whatever they decide will be both politically savvy, and in the best interest of their party. And, perhaps, the nation too?
Left to me, I would say, scrap the Sena. Better now than later. Who is the stronger partner? Surely, the BJP. The time has come for it to go it alone.
Today, 7.30 pm deadline should give a clue about the way ahead.
The author is a Professor and Director at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla. His views are personal. His Twitter handle is @makrandparanspe.
This article has been updated to reflect some changes.