Politics is said to be the art of the possible. The Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra bears proof that the saying is indeed true. For the last one-and-a-half years, leaders of the Shiv Sena, the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) have been trying to keep the government functioning. There is no reason to believe that any of the parties will rock the government at this juncture.
Yet, there have been statements aplenty from these leaders, which would have been better if they were never made. Congress chief Nana Patole would have remembered the days when his party lorded it over Maharashtra when he openly fancied his party contesting elections on its own in order to form a single-party government. If wishes were horses, the Congress would have been ruling at the Centre and in all the states. What he did not realise is that the Congress is just a shell of its former self, with nothing much inside.
The Congress has been losing its leaders like PC Chacko more to the NCP in the south of the Vindhyas than to the BJP. Today, it finds itself playing second fiddle to parties like the DMK in Tamil Nadu and the Muslim League in Kerala. If, by any chance, the Congress leaves the Uddhav Thackeray government, it would be tantamount to ploughing a lonely furrow in the treacherous political waters of Maharashtra. The party should know that a good fraternal relationship with the NCP will help both to have a workable relationship with the Shiv Sena.
The BJP has no difficulty in joining hands with any party to form a government, as it did in Maharashtra when it had a short-lived tie-up with the NCP. True, ideologically, the BJP and the Shiv Sena are on the same wavelength and the BJP would certainly like to re-establish an abiding relationship with the Shiv Sena. After all, it was the BJP’s first ally. Since that is not possible, the BJP prefers to create confusion by reading too much into the Chief Minister’s generous gesture of personally greeting the Governor on his birthday.
There may be an element of truth in what Ovala-Majiwada MLA Pratap Sarnaik said - that the NCP and the Congress have been nibbling at the Shiv Sena’s cadres. Which party does not do that? In politics as in life, it is the survival of the fittest. However, such efforts are inconsequential compared to the gross attempt made by the BJP in the past when it shared power with the Shiv Sena, to win over the party cadres lock, stock and barrel. The BJP would have liked the whole Shiv Sena merged into the party on the plea that both wanted to usher in Hindutva.
It is, perhaps, this experience which was on Shiv Sena spokesman Sanjay Raut’s mind when he said recently that the party had not forgotten the days when the BJP treated the Shiv Sena like a slave. It is, therefore, an existential fear that pushes the Shiv Sena away from the BJP. Shiv Sena MLA Sarnaik’s statement that the Shiv Sena should forge an alliance with the BJP is, in fact, a sharp indictment of the vindictive policy adopted by the BJP. It is not because he found the BJP acceptable that he favours a tie-up with the ruling party but because it harasses Shiv Sena leaders like him, misusing Central agencies like the Enforcement Directorate.
The experience in Puducherry, where the BJP is unwilling to give its political partner a place in the sun, is a pointer to the BJP’s big-brother attitude. NCP founder Sharad Pawar has an ambition to emerge as an alternative to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This will come to a naught if he is unable to keep both the Shiv Sena and the Congress, which are his party’s allies in Maharashtra, in the grand non-BJP alliance he wants to float.
Given the age factor, the election due in 2024 is the only chance Pawar can avail of to fulfil his ambition of becoming the Prime Minister. Of course, he has strong rivals like West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to contend with. Even so, he has a good chance to emerge as the consensus non-BJP, non-Congress leader with a pan-India following. But for this, he must keep his Maharashtra base intact. In other words, there is no need to fear that the Maha Vikas Aghadi government will not complete its full term.