As Ajit Pawar chickens out and the SC shuts windows for horse-trading, Maharashtra becomes a repeat of Karnataka
Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens,” wrote JRR Tolkein in The Fellowship of The Ring. And in the concentric rings of Maharashtra politics, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) rebel Ajit Pawar, who decided to break bread with the BJP, quickly retracted when he realised that he could fail in a floor test of numbers and be disqualified as his uncle and grandmaster Sharad Pawar still held the party flock. His dalliance with short-term BJP Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis lasted all of 72 hours and as that road led to nowhere, he resigned as his deputy and did an about-turn with one call from Pawar senior. Fadnavis was left high and dry on the aisle again after ally Shiv Sena dropped out when it was refused chief ministership. If there is one lesson that the make, break and remake politics in Karnataka and Maharashtra has taught us, it is that loyalty bought on the traders’ exchange is a fragile commodity and comes with no guarantee, not even a limited warranty. The party with a behemoth of a difference has suffered a huge loss of face. And Fadnavis himself looked worse than a cardboard when he upheld the reason for his resignation, saying he didn’t want to encourage horse-trading. Perhaps now the BJP, which has manipulated power games regardless of poll verdicts to seize power, should drop Operation Lotus for good and test its mettle electorally on a singularity of purpose. After all, it has that faith, spouting the benefits of one-party-one-India all the time. But people’s faith is different from the one propagated and has to be earned democratically and not bought by stealth. The BJP must realise that you can punch somebody into a corner, only so much and no further. From the beginning, the national party, in its bid to retain one of India’s richest States, decided to go subterranean. Once the Sena drifted away and sought support of the Opposition Congress-NCP alliance for its chief ministership, the BJP, which had reconciled itself to the virtues of a “friendly” spell of President’s Rule, turned government formation into an ego issue. It swooped down on the Pawar family nest and fled with a weakling nephew, who was ambitious at the same time. It got the list of 54 MLAs he had, which was intended to endorse the CM of the Opposition combine but was tweaked to indicate their consent for Fadnavis. Then it coerced the Governor into an early morning swearing-in ritual against norms. Except for Union Minister Nitin Gadkari who said, “In politics and cricket anything can happen,” there was no inkling of the not so sacred games in resorts. Trying to buy time with the Governor, who slotted a floor test on November 30, was the last straw. Had the BJP spent so much effort in engaging with its former ally, it would still have had a government. Even the Sena’s intransigence on chief ministership was about pushing the wrong buttons.
It is because of these misadventures that the BJP virtually gifted its opponents a shot at governance. It may scream and shout that a coalition of three divergent allies would be unstable but had it not indulged in the politics of subterfuge, it would perhaps be proven right. The Opposition, particularly the Sena, now has the sympathy of the entire Marathi manoos on its side. And Uddhav Thackeray, who may not have the flamboyance of the Thackeray clansmen, has tenacity of purpose and long-term gains in mind. He should be credited for standing ground and holding on to his cadres, not losing them to poaching expeditions. Needless to say the new Sena, with a more broad-based acceptability, has managed to convince the Congress to not only make an ideological crossover but be part of governance. The Congress, on its part, invested its legal eagles in moving courts and focussing on Constitutional improprieties. On that count, it may have just negotiated a little accommodation of its interests. Still this is a risky venture for the party which has been reduced to the fourth position in a State which it once commanded. If it looks at the joint tenure as a way of strengthening its presence and keeping its legislators invested, this could work for it. But the one man who seems to have taken it all by wrapping himself in enigma is NCP patriarch Sharad Pawar. Did the palace coup by Ajit Pawar have his blessings, knowing the nephew could be the pivot of his weathervane? At one level, it could be read as confusing the BJP and his manner of avenging the hijacking of NCP cadres before the polls. At another level it could be interpreted as a transactional overture to the national party for securing the interests of his kin and keeping them relevant in State politics. Did Pawar, the wily warhorse, indeed take part in the intriguing mystery to keep the fulcrum of power to himself? Questions are many. For the time being, it is enough that the mandate matters. A little bit.
Wednesday, 27 November 2019 | Pioneer
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