NCP chief Sharad Pawar continues to intrigue political observers even as greenhorns rush to write his political obituary. Some time ago, people wondered whether Pawar would shift to the BJP led NDA. Now with that possibility over, the question being asked is:
Will he finally merge his 10-year-old-party with the Congress?
The debate began when the likes of Prithviraj Chavan questioned the raison d’ etre of the NCP, formed to oppose ‘foreigner’ Sonia Gandhi as prime minister. Though she led the Congress to victory twice, Gandhi has refused to occupy the PM’s chair, offering it to Dr Manmohan Singh.
Now, with son Rahul on the horizon as a prime minister-in-the-making, a section of the Congress is raising the question over the NCP's separate existence. And the apology tendered to Sonia Gandhi by P A Sangma, one of the NCP’s founders, has fueled speculation over whether the wayward child will return to the family fold. Of course Sangma’s statement is greeted with trepidation. For, prior to the Lok Sabha polls, it was he who publicly demanded that the NCP should be part of the NDA.
Now Congressmen are watching the Maratha warlord carefully. Will he merge the party with a Congress on the path of revival? Or will he prefer to sit next to Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh as head of a party rather than take a seat in the second row?
When heavy is lightweight
Looks like the Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises portfolio in the Union Government has been created for politicians from Maharashtra. During the NDA regime, it went to Manohar Joshi, Balasaheb Vikhe Patil and Subodh Mohite, all Sena MPs from Maharashtra.
Then, from 2004 to 2009, the ministry did not exist during UPA rule. Now it has been revived and given to Vilasrao Deshmukh with Prateek Patil, who also hails from Maharashtra, as his deputy.
But the similarities do not end here. All those who headed the ministry have not been happy with the portfolio. The reason: Heavy Industries is not a heavy portfolio and not considered a key ministry in Delhi. Could that be the reason why Deshmukh told the State Assembly that he would willingly return whenever he is needed here?
Talking of Vilasrao Deshmukh. Chief Minister Ashok Chavan is making sure the former chief minister does not steal his thunder by claiming credit for the impressive show of the Congress in Maharashtra during the recent Lok Sabha polls.
As Parliament's first session began in Delhi, Deshmukh chose to come to the Assembly as he had still not resigned from its membership. He wanted to participate in the debate over the vote of thanks to the Governor's address on the government's performance.
But Chavan was shrewder that Deshmukh would have thought. Intervening in the debate, Chavan moved a motion to congratulate Deshmukh.
This followed an hour long discussion in the Assembly on the ex-chief minister's political achievements and the ongoing debate was postponed. Finally Deshmukh did not get a chance to claim credit for the government's performance as he had to rush to the Parliament the next day.
Is there an Ashok Chavan vs Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil tussle in the offing? The bone of contention is online admissions to junior colleges.
Education Minister Vikhe-Patil is pretty confident that the system he has worked out will be successful. On the other hand, Chavan shares the apprehension of city Congress legislators that a goof up in the admissions would prove costly on the eve of elections. Finally, Chavan issued a diktat that manual admissions should be allowed along with online admissions. Vikhe-Patil is not amused and has not yet accepted the CM's directive. What next?
Talking, not roaring
Many Shiv Sena leaders are still wondering why Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray himself went to Chief Minister Ashok Chavan with a memorandum that all concerned agencies in Mumbai finish the pre-monsoon work in time. In a democratic way, Thackeray took a delegation of Sena leaders to draw the CM’s attention to these problems.
Which is all very well but sainiks are bewildered because, in their book, this is not the way a Thackeray behaves. They are especially irked because Chavan snubbed Thackeray Jr when the latter alleged that Congress corporators were involved in protecting encroachments. “Let's not get into this,” Chavan told him.
Sena hardliners are insisting that the Thackeray clan should not let other politicians show that they are equal. On the other hand, Uddhav supporters are pointing out that he wants to be seen as a leader who will walk the extra mile for citizens. Looks like Uddhav's experiments are still on.
This could be music to Raj Thackeray's ears. Suddenly the Congress and NCP are worried over Marathi signboards in Mumbai. A delegation of leaders from both parties told municipal commissioner Jairaj Phatak that the rule should be strictly implemented in the city. A desperate attempt to woo Marathi voters?