Going, going, er…, not gone. So, that is the end of Act I of the farce that was orchestrated by Sharad Pawar to try and stop nephew Ajit from rocking the NCP boat. Act II is set to unveil itself in the coming days and weeks even if the main protagonist sleeps smugly believing he has saved the party for daughter Supriya. He has not. For, the three-legged monstrosity, Maha Vikas Aghadi, was already tottering. It is now shaking with fear, unsure what lies ahead for each constituent. With the NCP fielding 40-odd candidates of its own in the on-going Karnataka election, the Congress, which sees itself in with a chance to oust the BJP, is hopping mad with its Maharashtra ally. For, whether or not a single NCP candidate manages a win, nonetheless he is bound to act as a spoiler for the Congress in a closely contested election with the BJP. In Maharashtra itself, the relations between the NCP and the Congress are far from friendly, with the latter accusing the former of poaching on its territory. The distrust between the two is bound to grow in coming days.
Anyway, the father-and-daughter duo henceforth will become paranoid about what Ajit might do next. After all, it is Ajit who has yet again been outsmarted by the ageing NCP chieftain. At 82, it was the right time for him to groom his successor, provide supervision and guidance to negotiate the intricate political terrain in the once orderly politics of Maharashtra. Now, even the ruling arrangement looks shaky, with the Sharad Pawar drama spotlighting the BJP’s impatience with Chief Minister Eknath Shinde who does not seem to inspire a majority of the traditional Shiv Sainiks. Despite his lacklustre leadership, Balasaheb Thackeray’s son and designated successor, Uddhav, enjoys the support of the rank and file of the Shiv Sena, regardless of whether it is the official or the unofficial wing of the original entity. Quite clearly, the BJP leadership understands that it cannot risk going into the 2024 parliamentary campaign with the three-party MVA still intact. A reordering of alliances in the State, therefore, cannot wait long. Whether it is Pawar Sr or his nephew who decides to do business with the BJP is not known. But we can only mention that Supriya Sule had hinted about two upheavals days ahead of the Maha resignation farce. One, of course, was duly enacted last week. But she had talked about the second taking place at the central level. We await its unfolding.
Given that Sharad Pawar has all along sought to make inscrutability his USP, we will not be surprised if there is a big surprise at the central level as well. For, what he thinks of Uddhav’s administrative and leadership qualities is not unknown to the world. Udhhav himself did not advance his cause by his laid-back style and insipid leadership during the time he formally occupied the chief ministerial gaddi, allowing a parasitic courtier around him to claim to speak for him. That was his undoing. Probably, he will realise this once the second act in the Sharad Pawar drama unveils itself. The Brihanmumbai Corporation election cannot be put off indefinitely. This must be held sooner than later. With the Shinde Sena failing to make much of a dent in the network of Sena shakhas in the city, the existing MVA alliance might prove quite a challenge for the BJP.
In short, Maharashtra politics is in a state of flux. The BJP will hope to put in place a firmer and stronger alliance before the Lok Sabha poll next year. Now that he has reneged on the founding philosophy of Balasaheb on the advice of a couple of self-serving elements who always had their own axe to grind, he should go whole hog and team up with the Congress, leaving the field for the BJP and the NCP to exploit together. An alliance with the BJP will allow Sharad Pawar to accommodate Ajit at the state level and daughter Supriya at the central level. As for the BJP, in Pawar it will get a far more experienced ally with strong pockets of support in certain regions in the State than is the case with its currently untenable ally Eknath Shinde who per force will have to stay with the BJP in the foreseeable future. In short, the drama is still not over.
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