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Only reason why Amit Shah & Ajit Pawar enacted midnight Maharashtra drama — opposition sloth

Congress needs some hard lessons to avoid extinction. The old darbar-style decision making just won't do in the 21st century Modi-Shah politics.

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For all the thrill Maharashtra’s unseemly politics generated during the month-long stalemate, the outcome, even in its unexpectedness, tells the same usual story — one of opposition sloth.

Following an overnight coup, BJP’s Devender Fadnavis has been sworn in as the chief minister with Ajit Pawar, who led a faction of the NCP, as his deputy. The matter is now in the Supreme Court, which Sunday heard the Congress-NCP-Shiv Sena petition against the BJP move, and asked the Narendra Modi government to produce Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari’s letters that brought about the government formation in Maharashtra.

Now, whatever the fate of this overnight coup, this much is clear: there is no answer to BJP president Amit Shah’s political nimbleness. And the opposition is painfully tardy.

Chanakya vs sloth

If India’s present-day opposition had a spirit animal, it would be a sloth. It has managed to prove once again that it cannot be trusted, or even expected, to fill the gaping hole in India’s political system left by the BJP’s supreme domination. Evidently, everyone standing against the BJP is as dense as a brick.

Whether it was Congress president Sonia Gandhi postponing her meeting with NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, or the endless meetings that the latter had with Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray over cups of chai-nashta, it all amounted to what has now become a common sight: the BJP having the last laugh.

Chanakya must be marveling at Amit Shah’s dexterous handling of the government formation in Maharashtra. At 5.47 am Saturday, the President’s Rule was revoked and two hours later, at 7.50 am, Fadnavis was taking oath as the chief minister. That’s how early and prepared the BJP was. Their early morning routine at the RSS’ shakhas seems to have paid off. The opposition, on the other hand, was still hitting the snooze button at 11 am.

Also read: Ajit and Sharad Pawar battle on Twitter, defection threat looms over Shiv Sena and Congress

Usual suspects

But this wasn’t just a day off on Saturday. The opposition is so mind-numbingly slow that forget about trying to form a government, it even postpones protests. The Congress was all set to hit the streets over the slowing economy, joblessness, farm distress, and a few other things it could put under “BJP’s misrule” from 5 November onwards. It had, amid a fair amount of ridicule, announced the dates almost a week before.

But as the days got closer, the party began to postpone and has now comfortably pushed it to 14 December. And yet somehow, we are supposed to take the Congress seriously when it waves its ‘agenda’ to bring back India’s economy from the doldrums.

But, as mentioned, there’s nothing new about what took place in Maharashtra. Being slow is in the Congress’ DNA. We saw it in Goa. And we saw it in Karnataka, where no one in the party besides D.K. Sivakumar showed any urgency in keeping the government with the JD(S) intact. The lack of vigour from Congress’ top leadership was also evident in Haryana, even though Bhupinder Singh Hooda managed to pull all the stops to win 31 seats for the party.

One could perhaps apply the idiom that ‘slow and steady wins the race’ for the opposition. But this isn’t the ’70s. The long-winded way of going about things worked during Indira Gandhi’s time, when telegrams and trunk calls were the fastest way to communicate. In the age of social media and chartered flights, it’s a crime to sit and ponder over which way to go when a chance to rule is at stake. The amount of time wasted is one of the parameters with which the voting public judges a political party today.

Also read: 5 reasons why nobody is ready to believe Sharad Pawar

The odd quick learners

Take a look at Mamata Banerjee and Arvind Kejriwal’s playbook, for instance. Soon after the defeat of the combined opposition in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, TMC supremo Mamata realised that her hold in West Bengal was slipping away, and there may only be regrets after the assembly election in 2021. Suddenly, all her theatrics and vociferousness against Prime Minister Narendra Modi vanished. In fact, election strategist Prashant Kishor is now styling her much like Modi. We see pictures of her making tea circulating on social media. Someone who took jibes at the ‘chaiwala’ has learnt quickly and is doing her own version of ‘chai pe charcha’ (conversation over tea).

Similarly, Arvind Kejriwal is a quick learner too. In the run-up to the Lok Sabha election, the AAP convener and Delhi Chief Minister never wasted a moment to speak against Modi and Amit Shah. But after the election, he took stock of his position in Delhi’s politics, and quickly extended an olive branch to Modi by meeting him. He also changed gears in how he promoted himself. He is no longer the man who ‘only’ opposes Modi and Amit Shah. He is now the CM who works for Delhi and therefore expects to be voted in on that account.

Also read: Do Muslims matter for Modi-Shah BJP, or India?

No answer to this

At the opposite end of the spectrum is the master planner Amit Shah, who keeps setting fresh rules for politics in ‘New India’ after 2014. The whole idea of backing his loyalists all the way – Devendra Fadnavis in Maharashtra’s case – or negotiating until he ensures that the BJP has got the meatier portion of the pie shows how Amit Shah keeps his stealth mode on permanently. While the Congress and the NCP bickered over the post of assembly speaker and decided to call it a day, agreeing to resume discussions the next morning, Amit Shah worked through the night and secured a deal with Sharad Pawar’s nephew Ajit Pawar.

The tragedy of the opposition is also the intrigues within party ranks. Fathers are opposed to sons (Mulayam Singh Yadav – Akhilesh Yadav), chachas are opposed to bhatijas (Sharad Pawar – Ajit Pawar, Akhilesh – Shivpal Yadav), brothers are opposed to brothers (Tej Pratap – Tejashwi Yadav). But Amit Shah and Narendra Modi remain rock solid as a team. Shah’s decisions are final and binding and his trusted deputies work for and not against each other. Within the opposition, until the top of the pyramid in the hierarchy doesn’t approve, everything hangs in the air – case in point, Ahmed Patel. Even he can’t take a decision until ‘Madam’ approves.

Up until a week ago, people keenly observing the Maharashtra game wondered who would blink first – Shah or Uddhav Thackeray. But Shah looked on with a poker face at an opposition that has been limping its way through elections, somewhat winning but ultimately losing state after state.

Congress needs some hard lessons in fleet footedness and mutating gene to avoid extinction. The old darbar-style decision making with leaders reclining against bolster-pillows just won’t do in the 21st century Modi-Shah politics. Many years ago, Manmohan Singh had talked about releasing the animal spirits of the Indian economy. Today, it’s time for India’s oldest political party to channel its inner sprinting leopard and shed the walrus.

The author is a political observer and writer. Views are personal.

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  1. A 130 years old party needs “Lessons’ ! Obviously, this party has NO ability whatsoever to learn. It is too arrogant and its top “Family”members too puffed up with some fanciful illusions of past glory to come down to earth. But the”Voter” has made them bite the dust. They deserve to remain where they are.

  2. This article did not age well. The ‘chanakya’ lost and the sloths won. But I would say it was definitely a thriller.

  3. This whole exercise of bjp is only to expose the NCP,Shivsena and not to have a government.there will be fresh elections with bjp getting a simple majority

  4. This is a wretched article ,just like Indian politics, the happenings of Maharashtra politics will put to shame professional pimps. Half decent folks would consign these events to the bin lest they bring disrepute ,or hang their heads in shame if the most tenous of connection were to be made to these events

  5. Why applaud Amit Shah. The greed for power should be exposed, it is not honourable but brinkmanship as going against the very word given by Modi, Na Kaaoonga Na kaane doonga. Jumla is another word to describe these useless politicians taking voters for a ride using every office be it Governor or President to bring disrepute to office. Ideology of BJP was Hindutva and giving a corrupt free india but shame even a person like Ajit Pawar is being whitewashed by Amit Shah and Modi to retain their power on the richest state in this country.

    • What Thakare and Siv Sena doing to people is also gooda giri and extortion.
      Congress is also power hungry and what they did in Karnataka is all too see.
      No one expects Sena, NCP and Congress to rule more than year as most of their MLA are money and power hungry.
      BJP cadre has some discipline.
      Congress lost voting block of Muslims and Dalits or cast politics too. Is Triple Talaq and Nikah halala good for Muslim women?

  6. Agreed that the Congress lacks speed and decisiveness. But, I don’t think speed would have made a difference in this case. The BJP was waiting to pounce the minute they realized the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congresss combine was actually going to form the government.

    For all his cunning, it looks like Amit ‘Chanakya’ Shah made a mistake out of desperation! First, it doesn’t look like they’ll win it.

    And even if they do, the second mistake will take some undoing, because he’s stripped away that all important BJP fig leaf – PM Modi’s innocence, or shall we say, his ‘clean \ sahi’ credentials. The party has always argued that ‘Sant’ Modi is beyond reproach, utterly blameless and pure! The man himself has said he’s ‘above’ elections.

    But look what happened! Modi made a person the BJP themselves accused of massive corruption as the Deputy Chief Minister. So, either they filed a false case against him, or they don’t mind corruption at all! This is what makes the Maharashtra scenario different to all other recent ‘hung’ Assembly dramas.

    People are not fools, and slowly but surely they can see that they are being treated as such! The PM’s image is starting to unravel and it could give the BJP very little to cover their misdeeds and misgovernance, come 2024.

  7. Congress lacks decision making only one family (gai bachda old symbal) keep on gazing esch other out of affection and in the meantime the train leaves station.

  8. Thank you for shedding the light over the matters the congress should have had adapted to ages ago (being old shouldn’t make one slow and crippled ) it shall actually make them wiser and if they cant do this after being in rule for so many years what is left to hope for
    I wish congress are following your feeds they can actually learn something from here !

  9. While the Opposition deserves all the rose petals the column showers on it, the incumbent is also duty bound to observe constitutional morality. Find it difficult to endorse the encomiums some senior journalists are will to confer on commerce in legislators.

  10. The author of this article seems to be an admirer of corruption.
    Buying and selling legislators is an evil subversion of democracy.
    If the author does not understand that she is a dishonest person not fit to write in the Print.
    She is so enamoured by the wicked machinations of a Amit Shah that she seems to support the theft of my entitlement and the entitlement of every citizen of India – for their right to have a government as envisioned by our constitution.
    Zainab Sikendar you are a thief yourself for eulogising Amit Shah and corruption in your dishonest opinionated garbage of an article.

    • Are you Indian or afgani first decide that, minority journalist? She is not journalist but jihadi supporter, rest for being minority ? . This is India for Indian religions not desert Arabia!! as per Constitution we don’t have minority drama.

    • Concur Ms Sikander the author of this piece, never outright calls out the dishonesty of the whole matter, but discusses around it sicko infinitum. She normalises abnormal behaviour of these rascals.
      It’s time Jurnos take a stand, call a spade a spade. At the outset explain right from wrong.

    • She has not said what Amit Shah did is correct. She has highlighted what is lacking in the main (?!) opposition party and the coterie it is said to lead against the’ un-democratic ‘ BJP. If the Opposition doesnt wake up, their days are numbered ! Good write up, Madam !

    • Why Sonia visited Imam Bukhara just before 2014 election and Kamal Natu recently threatened Muslims to vote for congress? Is it allowed by EC of India to ask vote on religion or cast basis?

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