The Shiv Sena received a jolt when its sitting MP, Ganesh Dudhgaonkar from Parbhani decided to switch sides, by resigning from the Sena and joining Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). However, there is nothing surprising in the move, as the state has witnessed several such eleventh hour switching of sides in the past by individual MPs, just on the eve of major general elections.

Actually, the time is ripe for Aaya Rams and Gaya Rams of state politics to switch sides. Individual MPs are always in jitters, as they are not sure whether the party will re-nominate them for the contest or they will be replaced by younger and more popular workers of the party.

The Shiv Sena, which faced the awkward situation is also not unduly perturbed, since both the sitting MPs who drifted away from the party are in fact, not Shiv Sainiks, but former drifters who joined the Shiv Sena during the last election. Ganesh Dudhgaonkar, who has been a Congress worker and a minister in the state cabinet , had resigned from the Congress and joined the Sena just before the last Lok Sabha elections, which he contested successfully. Dudhgaonkar   who was feeling uncomfortable in the Sena camp during the last five years, finally left the party and joined the NCP and did not return to the Congress fold.

Bhausaheb Waghchaure is another sitting Sena MP from Shirdi, who has also resigned from the party and is seeking a ticket from the Congress-NCP alliance. He too is not a Sainik, having revolted against the Congress in the last election and joining the Sena to contest the election from Shirdi in Ahmednagar. The Congress-NCP had decided to field Ramdas Athawale of the RPI, who was with the Congress-NCP alliance.

Now that Athawale has joined hands with the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance in the state and has already been elected to the Rajya Sabha, Waghchaure thought it fit to resign from the Sena and seek a ticket from the Congress alliance.

Naturally, with two sitting MPs, deserting the party is no small development, upsetting the Sena leadership. Hitting out at the Nationalist Congress Party, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray has described the NCP as the ‘party of betrayers.’  He is not worried about these two sitting MPs deserting the party, but would certainly not like the Shiv Sainiks to follow them to the other political outfit. He has warned Sainiks against crossing over to the NCP or the Congress, saying these are sinking boats.

He has already written off Sena MP Anand Paranjape, who has revolted against the party. He has not resigned from the party, but has been attending NCP functions for the last couple of months. The Sena is all set to field a diehard Sainik against him in the coming elections from the Kalyan constituency. He was given a ticket by Balasaheb Thackeray on sympathetic grounds when his father Prakash Paranjape, who represented the constituency passed away.

Uddhav Thackeray does not seem to be much perturbed by these desertions, but he is certainly worried over its impact on the general morale of the party’s foot soldiers. He does not want this to happen and is hoping they do not desert the party at this crucial juncture. The party has already seen stalwarts walking away from the party and Balasaheb Thackeray during difficult times, but this did not affect the overall prospects of the party, as the Shiv Sainiks did not follow these regional satraps in the opposition camp and the party could retain its hold over crucial constituencies.

In early 1990s, Chhagan Bhujbal, who was the party’s crusader in the state legislative assembly, walked out of the party on the issue of Mandal Commission recommendations along with a large chunk of MLAs. Balasaheb Thackeray had rejected Mandal recommendations, while Bhujbal, who considered himself a championer of the OBC cause could not take it lying down.

While it took almost 10 years for Bhujbal to get elected back into the state legislative assembly, others who had followed him were wiped out from the political arena. There was another group of seven MLAs, led by Babanrao Pachpute, who had deserted the Janata Dal to join the Congress.  Once again, Pachpute survived and retained his importance by siding with Sharad Pawar  when he set up the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), but those who followed him were totally wiped out and the party has been reduced to almost nothing.

The Sena also suffered severe jolts when its former chief minister, Narayan Rane, who had performed so well as leader of the opposition just before the 2004 elections, joined the Congress. He is a senior minister in the Congress-led ministry in the state, but not all those MLAs who joined hands with him could survive the test of time.

Raj Thackeray, who set up the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, struck a serious blow to the Sena, but it was altogether a different story, as Raj is serious contender for power in Maharashtra and poses a real threat to the Sena. Both the Sena and MNS are trying to poach into each other’s territory and the Sena is more concerned about the flow of workers towards the new set-up and Uddhav is keeping a close watch. In fact, he is so disturbed over the walking away of sitting MPs from the party that he has declared that there will be no more democracy within the party and  he will have the last word on all important party issues.

There have been many Aaya Rams and Gaya Rams from the Sena to the MNS and vice versa over the years. If one does not get a ticket from one party, one first threatens and if it does not work , then one walks over to the other party to try and get tickets.

The BJP is also vulnerable to this phenonmenon.. The BJP stalwart, Gopinath Munde, had to face a tough time when there was a rebellion in his home constituency.  His nephew, Dhananjay Munde,  revolted against him on the issue of ticket distribution for local self-government bodies and walked over to the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).

There have been some seniors from the party who have walked out feeling jilted when junior leaders were selected by the party for representation. They are finding the going difficult in new political outfits, but they prefer to languish in a new set-up rather than face humiliation within their old party, which they served for so long.

The political parties have yet to formalise their own coalitions and seat adjustment talks have yet to start. Once these parties start scrutinising candidates for the coming general elections, then we may come across more such examples, where leaders denied tickets may walk out of their parties and try their luck elsewhere, making coming fights more complex and interesting.

   Prakash Bal Joshi

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