Sonia Gandhi leaves the protest
File photo | Sonia Gandhi | Photo: Praveeen Jain | ThePrint
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New Delhi: Congress working president Sonia Gandhi is caught between her ‘commitment to secularism’ and her desire to keep the BJP out of power in Maharashtra as she deliberates over the feasibility of partnering the Shiv Sena, ThePrint has learnt.

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar has had telephonic discussions with her twice to explore the possibility of forming a non-BJP government in the state but she has remained non-committal due to this dilemma, according to multiple Congress sources.

“Yes, they have spoken. Pawar saheb will leave for New Delhi this evening to meet her (Sonia Gandhi) tomorrow,” said NCP national spokesperson Nawab Malik Sunday.

Pawar has, however, maintained publicly that the mandate of the NCP — which won 54 seats — was to sit on the opposition benches.

In a meeting with senior party leaders on the Maharashtra political stalemate at 10 Janpath Friday, Sonia Gandhi was learnt to have expressed reservations about any tie-up with the Shiv Sena.

“How will it reflect on our commitment to secularism? You know what the Shiv Sena has done in the past,” a Congress leader quoted her as saying.

Senior party leaders A.K. Antony and K.C. Venugopal were learnt to have echoed her views on the Shiv Sena’s non-secular credentials and opposed any tie-up, said the leader.

Mallikarjun Kharge, former Maharashtra chief ministers Prithviraj Chavan and Ashok Chavan, and senior leaders Balasaheb Thorat and Manikrao Thakre were among those who attended the meeting.


Also read: Shiv Sena fumes after BJP ‘threatens’ President’s rule in Maharashtra


‘Keeping her options open’

Sources privy to the deliberations, however, asserted that Sonia Gandhi was keeping her options open.

“She has reservations but she is also very eager to keep the BJP out of power. You know how the BJP poached 32 MLAs and MPs from the NCP and the Congress ahead of elections. It’s a question of our survival and Soniaji is conscious of that,” a Maharashtra Congress leader told ThePrint.

As many as 40 of 44 Congress MLAs are in favour of putting up a non-BJP government even if it means supporting the Shiv Sena, he added.

On Tuesday, Prithviraj Chavan had said that the Congress hadn’t got any “concrete proposal” from the Shiv Sena. If it comes, “we will discuss it with the high command”, he had told news agency PTI. Congress sources said the Sena hasn’t made any proposal to the Congress directly yet but has been discussing “various possibilities” with the NCP leadership.

Pawar and Sonia are likely to explore and discuss those possibilities when they meet Monday.

As for Sonia Gandhi’s views on the Shiv Sena’s non-secular credentials, another Congress leader pointed out that she had no issues meeting Raj Thackeray of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) at 10 Janpath, and backing an MNS candidate in Pune in the assembly election.

“If she had no qualms meeting Raj Thackeray and supporting his party, why should her secularism come in the way of an understanding with Uddhav-led Shiv Sena to keep the BJP out of power?” said an All India Congress Committee functionary.

What seems to be preventing the Congress high command from expressing support to a non-BJP formation in Mumbai is the “apprehension” that the Shiv Sena could be using the Congress and the NCP only as “a bargaining chip” in its negotiations with the BJP.

“Once there is clarity that the Shiv Sena will not go with the BJP, there are many possibilities. The Congress can support a Shiv Sena-NCP government from outside or support a government led by Sharad Pawar,” said a Congress leader present at Friday’s meeting at 10 Janpath.

“But, don’t forget that the Sena and the BJP are ideological brethren. Unless and until they formally declare their separation, we are not going to commit anything either way.”

The Shiv Sena is the BJP’s oldest ally but their relationship has been strained over recent years.

While they contested this month’s assembly election as partners, and together have the numbers to form the state government, the Shiv Sena’s demand for a 50-50 distribution of power has put their tie-up on slippery ground.


Also read: Maharashtra tussle continues — BJP won’t cede CM chair, Sena says won’t settle without it


 

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10 Comments Share Your Views

10 COMMENTS

  1. To keep BJP out of power or stay secular — Sonia Gandhi weighs options on Shiv Sena tie-up. The other question is will keeping BJP out of power avoid the legal troubles for all those who have had their hands in the till including some from Shiv sena. If SS splits the alliance it now would be forever. Thackerays need to take a call on that. For a party which is not even pan-maharashtra, it appears punching beyond its weight. When a leader is represented by a political adviser, the competence of the leader comes in question.

  2. Good let them do ..totally this fake shiv sena will be go away from politics.. now the kumarasy .karnataka facing .if anyone join hands with .italy congress will not sustain in indian politics. Eg.lallu.mulayam.kumarasamy .

  3. SS is only using this talks with NCP-Congress as a bargaining tactic with BJP. All know that the SS led government, supported by others will be most unstable one. Hope Sonia will see the trap. By aligning with SS, Congress has to answer it’s credibility as secularism by it’s adversaries elsewhere.

  4. Shivsena is too much of a bully. Congress and NCB combine will soon party company with Shivsena, if ever this alliance fructifies. I suspect that Shivsena is ratcheting up the issue only to garner as much as it can from BJP. It is likely that Shivsena, which has so far retained its vote share during its aliance with BJP might actually lose, if it joins hands with these two unscrupulous parties.

  5. 1. This is the appropriate time to discuss role of regional parties. We are aware of fact that the regional parties like SS, NCP, RJD, SP, BSP, JD(S), Akali Dal, AIADMK, DMK TDP, YSRC and Trinamool Congress have no cohesive economic or national level political agenda. They have still managed to find space in their respective States and they have been voted to power. 2. Question is this: Should national parties like BJP & Congress, (which today has actually lost its earlier strength as a national party), should join hands with regional parties and form alliances with them? No straight forward answer is possible to this question. But let us not forget that alliances with regional parties are basically opportunistic alliances, which may be of some temporary utility but in the long term they are not beneficial to national parties. 3. Alliance between BJP & Shiv Sena (SS) in Maharashtra is no different. After declaration of Maharashtra Assembly election results on 24th October, 2019, SS leaders have started thinking that BJP is dependent on SS for forming a government and that BJP can be cornered. Accordingly, SS leaders have started making unreasonable demands as regards share in power which, as pr BJP’s leaders, is not in proportion to SS’ strength in the Assembly. SS leaders apparently think that BJP is in need of alliance and hence SS can dictate terms to BJP, as in the past, when SS was stronger than BJP. But today, SS leaders may not be able to pressurize BJP and seek a larger share of cake. We will have to perhaps wait and watch for a week or so. (a) In this context, it is worth noting a recent experience of an opportunistic alliance formed between Congress and JD(S) in 2018. (b) In Karnataka Assembly election held in April/May 2018, not one party could secure a majority. The largest party was BJP but Karnataka’s Congress leaders joined hands and formed an alliance government with JD(S) to deny power to BJP. However, many Congress MLAs were unhappy with alliance with JD(S), as their perception was that Congress party was denied a share of power as per party’s strength in the Karnataka Assembly. Alliance government of JD(S and Congress has subsequently lost majority and has been defeated, after some MLAS resigned. (c) My observation is that all opportunistic alliances have similar fate: they will simply be failures. SS and BJP leaders should remember this and learn a lesson or two from Karnataka episode.

    • Shiv Sena maybe aware that in the long run BJP is going to cannibaliz considering their same ideology. So it is trying to be opposition party even though it was partner in government. Alas, Uddhav Thakare has no leadership skills required for such change over.

  6. Congress is fourth in the list of elected members. Now SS the number two with 56 wants to defy logic. It wants the 54 party and 44 party to support to make Aditya the CM. Sanjay Raut the leader of RS with three members is playing foul from within to sink SS ship. He pretends ostensibly supporting the Sena’s cause but factually conspiring to finish Shiv sena politically as 55 other seniors are not considered for CM post and the kid is preferred. So the rest of 55 of Sena elected members will have to decide whether they want a future for Sena and themselves or sink with Aditya son of Uddhav blind folded with putramoha being misled by Sanjay.

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