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This is what Uddhav Thackeray’s CM rule will mean for NCP, Congress & BJP

Maharashtra politics has shown that every party has many arrows in its quiver. And, one never knows who will shoot the next one.

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The last thing one expected from the dyed-in-the-wool saffron party Shiv Sena was to ascend to power on two crutches, the Congress and the NCP. Both the parties have been sworn enemies of the saffron brigade for more than four decades in Maharashtra politics.

And that is why the Shiv Sena put up a grand show at Shivaji Park for the swearing-in of Uddhav Thackeray as the chief minister of Maharashtra Thursday. It was a sign the Hindu Hriday Samrat Balasaheb Thackeray’s son had to give to the party faithful to assure them that there is no change in the colour of their brand of Hindutva in the rainbow coalition. ‘Gained nothing lost everything’ is an adage that best applies to him now.

While I wish him well, it is unlikely that this regime in Maharashtra will last even six months.

The Shiv Sena can savour the moment of borrowed glory, but not for long. The Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government may not last long, not because it is a wishful thinking of the BJP. The dynamics of coalition politics does not allow such an artificial alliance to stick together for long. It does not benefit the Congress to share power with the Shiv Sena and squander away its vote bank, or whatever little is left of it. The highly unpredictable Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) too may not like to partner with the Shiv Sena for too long at the risk of losing its vote share and economic and administrative clout in Maharashtra.

It would be easier to predict the weather than the twists and turns in Maharashtra politics, at least as long as Maratha strongman Sharad Pawar is in command. In the last few days, he has more than once proved that ‘Pawar saheb will always have the last word in government formation in Maharashtra’.

Also read: Shiv Sena was hated by Indian liberals as extremist Hindutva party. Now, it’s their darling

Don’t underestimate rivals

There are several key lessons for all the parties in the Maharashtra episode.

The BJP, it seems, started off on the wrong foot from day one. In the run-up to the assembly election, the party’s glee over the ED notice to Sharad Pawar in relation to a scam in a state cooperative bank was hard to miss. However, while speaking to the media, the BJP spokespersons maintained that “ED has taken action as per the procedure”.

But the Maratha strongman was not amused.

The BJP then poached one of his trusted lieutenants Udayanraje Bhosale, got him to resign as an NCP MP and made him contest on a BJP ticket. Pawar ensured Bhosale tasted defeat.

Then, the BJP, as a single-largest party, foisted Pawar’s nephew Ajit as the deputy chief minister in a coup. In a quick move, Pawar fortified his camp and turned the tables on the BJP in less than 48 hours. The prodigal nephew is back with the NCP, and will eventually be re-admitted into the Pawar camp.

The biggest lesson for the BJP is never to underestimate the strengths, covert and overt, of its political adversaries.

The Congress was almost written off in Maharashtra with no tall leader anywhere in sight. Besides, it was evident that the state and central leadership were not on the same page on a number of issues.

Yet, its alliance with the NCP prevented the splitting of the crucial Maratha votes. As a result, both the parties retained and even marginally improved their seat share compared to 2014.

Also read: Supriya Sule was the Darling of Lutyens’ Delhi, but is now Maharashtra’s very own tai

BJP needs to read new books

Poaching existing leaders from other parties and promoting lightweight non-entities will not help the BJP storm the Pawar stronghold.

The lesson for the BJP is – wait for the right moment but keep building inroads in western Maharashtra through confidence-building measures. Further, the party needs to read some new books on how to keep old friends and win over new ones.

The BJP could have roped in both the Shiv Sena and the NCP to form a new coalition. This would have meant forgoing some important portfolios. But, at this juncture, it was important for the BJP to be in power, especially when elections in Jharkhand are around the corner.

It should not come as a surprise to the BJP if some of its allies in other states now start contemplating a shift in their position. It may not happen overnight but political realignments can be quick.

It is not principles vs pragmatism

The BJP and the Shiv Sena have always kept their doors wide open to allow free entry of turncoats. Nearly half of the current strength of the BJP is made up of ‘outsiders’, who joined the party in 2014 or later for reasons other than ideological.

Nothing can stop these turncoats to return to where they originally belonged. It is always difficult for a cadre-based, ideologically sound party to compromise with principles for the sake of convenience and political expediency. The BJP should know that in politics, principles and pragmatism are not two sides of the same coin. They run parallel.

Not easy for NCP, Congress either

For the Congress, supporting a Shiv Sena-led government is like trying to remain afloat with an albatross around its neck.

It’s tie-up with the NCP will not allow the Congress workers to operate independently in the NCP stronghold constituencies. The party will continue to play second fiddle to the NCP, and now to the Shiv Sena as well, much to the chagrin of loyal workers.

The Congress should stop dreaming about a Congress-NCP merger – Pawar will not allow that in Maharashtra although he is aware that the NCP’s pan-India reach is limited.

But the NCP too is a one-man army. The party has no second-rung leadership, cadre base or ideological moorings. It has its origin in an ego clash between Pawar and former Congress president Indira Gandhi. The many layers of agricultural-economic outfits, sugar cooperatives and rural banks that Sharad Pawar has built may not operate as a political bulwark for long.

Aware of the constraints, Pawar himself has suggested that it is time for the revival of the Congress but has advised the Gandhi family not to take the leadership issue for granted.

Maharashtra politics has shown that every party has many arrows in its quiver. And, one never knows who will shoot the next arrow.

Also read: Will joining Shiv Sena-NCP alliance help revive Congress or damage it further nationally?

The author is a member of the National Executive Committee of the BJP and former editor of Organiser. Views are personal.

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  1. Fresh elections should be called to put an end to rhis farce.

    Only in India do politicians change their “ideology” like they change their khadi kurta everyday (I hope they do….this so called democracy stinks to the high heavens).

    Waiting for Labour and conservative and Republican and Democrat members to cross to the other side — and back. As mundane as Like crossing the street.

  2. Prof PK Sharma, Freelance Journalist-cum- The Founder Sharp Eye,Barnala (Punjab)

    Mr.Sheshadri Chari’s article’ This is what…….” is ironically a blending of subjectivity and objectivity two in one tale.

    The article hypothetically tends to foresee course of events likely to come to fore in future so far as fate of both opposition parties and the authoritarian BJP rule at the centre is concerned.

    Although the author is relying on the 20th century yardsticks of politics yet he forgets that now we are all a part and parcel of the 21st
    century.Hence, it is futile all the more to talk of ideologies, values and morals.

    He must admit that all the political outfits should be under the close scrutiny and scanner of the natives of India. The plight of India in which it finds itself at present is quite pitiable as well as miserable on all fronts therefore nothing either to boast or brag about.

    I am of the considered view and conviction that we the people of India very badly need change of mindsets and fast attitudinal changes in the best interests of the nation.

    How can this nation dream of becoming a developed nation and a force to reckon with all over the world when the present regime is deeming
    the opposition parties and its leadership as its foes and sworn enemies just to cling to power for too long throwing to winds all norms and moral proprieties with impunity ?

    The ruling group must set examples and precedents for others to emulate instead of harping on the blunders of other parties in the past to exploit the same as a cover up for its misdeeds and evil doings.

    All parties and masses onwards must follow only and only one ideology that is of a developed, progressive, prosperous, advanced and broad-minded INDIA in all walks of life.

    Prof PK Sharma, Freelance Journalist-The Founder Sharp Eye,
    Pom Anm Nest,Barnala(Punjab)

    • But some Shiv Sena fans think that these slums are a result of last 5 years, and will now be transformed into 5-star tenements by the present coalition where previous failed. They also seem sure that PR will be replaced with real governance bringing prosperity and foreign media will hopefully take note and lift it beyond PR, with extensive positive coverage.

  3. After watching Cut the Clutter. The three coalition partners have existential compulsions to stay together. They are less vulnerable to external poaching than in Karnataka. With the issue of CMship settled – all five years for the Shiv Sena – there is no single rock on which the ship of state could founder. With the passage of time, as the effects of the slick PR campaign fade, the people of the state will realise how slender the achievements of the previous administration were.

  4. This Government will damage position of Congress in upcoming elections.

    Bet no secular votes will go to congress in Delhi, jharkhand, bihar.

    For the sake of Pawar Congress has damaged itself in other states

  5. It would not be good for Maharashtra if the new government collapses within six months. A fresh election suits no one, including the BJP, which is receding even further from its Shat Pratishat target. Perhaps Shri Nitin Gadkari as CM in 2014 would have got a lot more work done, kept better relationships within the party and outside. 2. The Congress must learn coalition dharma. No good reason why the family could not have attended the swearing in ceremony. However, if they chose not to, the awkwardness of Shri Aaditya Thackeray travelling to Delhi to invite them personally ought to have been avoided. 3. Shri Sharad Pawar has powerful reasons to make this coalition succeed.

    • Fresh elections are necessary, as the voters didn’t vote for this makeshift, rainbow alliance, nor did they vote for an unholy sordid alliance between BJP and one-man party of Ajit Pawar. All parties have erred grievously and this require a fresh mandate. Expenditure in elections is a better option than having to tolerate an unworthy alliance for five years. And so far as expenditure is concerned, who will be spending? The dirty politicians, off course. Let them pay for their sins.

  6. I think this government will last long. Despite the ideological differences between the 3 parties, the fact remains this is a lifeline for the 3 parties and the only hope to reinvent themselves. Being in the government (with differences) is better than being, irrelevant outside. I believe pawar and Uddhav are shrewd enough to realise this. The common minimum programme is a splash of social extravagance and populism which will help all 3 parties to reinvent themselves

    • I agree with you. The signs of flexibility and pragmatism are already there with the ease Uddhav has been made the CM. Also feel that Aditya, being a younger generation lad, will only tow the Hindutva line to certain limit and not beyond that. But you never know the dynamics of politics. My feeling is Shiv Sena is on a path of reinventing itself because of whatever little influence Aditya may have.

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