For nearly a week, the Congress, beleaguered since its twin electoral defeats last year, slammed the National Democratic Alliance on a near-daily basis.
It even got senior former ministers to descend to the city and hold press conferences attacking the Narendra Modi government. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), on the other hand, deployed its leaders to talk about its achievements.
Even the Shiv Sena, which is an alliance partner both at the Centre and State, said the Centre tried, but only brought in cosmetic changes. A recent Saamana editorial, while appreciating the state government’s performance, said it could have done better.
Amid such wrangling and the din of allegations and counter-alllegations on the first year anniversary of the Modi government, one party remained curiously silent — the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). At a time when many believed the NDA government was vulnerable, the NCP had the option to hit them hard and exploit the political opportunity. Instead, the party maintained a studied silence.
The party, which usually holds a press conference almost every week, chose to not hold one on the occasion. Nor did its leader of Opposition in the legislative council Dhananjay Munde say anything, even as his Congress counterpart Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil launched into an attack on the BJP-led governments at the Centre and the state. Instead, during its last press conference on May 21, it chose to attack the Shiv Sena instead of the BJP.
For many, this reluctance to speak out against the Modi government is another sign of the party’s complicated relationship with the BJP. The close ties between NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Modi were revealed when the latter went to Baramati and said he used to frequently consult Pawar while he was the Gujarat chief minister.
Vikhe-Patil, speaking to HT, said: “There is little doubt that the BJP and the NCP share close ties. This has been exposed time and again.”
A few NCP leaders, not wishing to be named, said the silence was strategic. “We are a small regional party whose criticism would have hardly made sense. Hence, the general feeling in the party was to not try and jump into the same boat as the Congress and criticise the NDA. Why burn our bridges when it would make little impact anyway?” said a senior party leader.
Another leader, in a candid admission, added: “Our aim has been to widen the rift between the Sena and the BJP and hope that we get a fresh role. Hence, we much rather focus on that than criticising Modi and gaining little.”