Now it’s enemies becoming friends! | mumbai news | Hindustan Times
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Now it’s enemies becoming friends!

The fact that Opposition parties in Maharashtra could all come together in a jiffy and undertake a yatra in the scorching heat of Vidarbha and Marathwada says much about what really is driving them into each other’s arms – the Bharatiya Janata Party

mumbai Updated: Apr 04, 2017 14:41 IST
Sujata Anandan
Bharatiya Janata Party
Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis is caught between a rock and a very hard place with regard to suicides of farmers that show no signs of abating.(HT)

After a series of victories, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis suddenly finds himself in an unenviable situation.

He is caught between a rock and a very hard place with regard to suicides of farmers that show no signs of abating. Now the opposition parties have caught his government in a bind by demanding a loan waiver for them that is likely to cost more than Rs 30,000 crore.

Fadnavis began by acting tough on the loan waivers as it was not the party policy. But then he was tripped up by his own leaders — first Narendra Modi and Amit Shah during their campaign in Uttar Pradesh promised a loan write-off for farmers in that state. That came as a big shock, particularly as Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray was quick to step into that breach of his defences and taunt the BJP, “You already have a government in Maharashtra. Why don’t you do it here first to show us how sincere you are.’’

But the second shocker was when Union finance minister Arun Jaitley sternly made it clear that the state governments would have to undertake loan waivers on their own and cannot expect any help from the Centre.

Even if Fadnavis could have bought some time to work out the arithmetic for the state, the newly-appointed chief minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath is on the threshold of announcing a Rs 40,000 crore waiver for farmers in his state. The question now being raised is; if one BJP chief minister can have the political will to do so, why can’t another, particularly in a state like Maharashtra that is really not down in the dumps in terms of finances as UP is generally believed to be.

But apart from the issue of loan waivers, the recent Kisan Sangharsh Yatra undertaken by the combined opposition is more cause for worry. Opposition parties in Maharashtra are extremely fractious – barely a year ago, during the controversy over the chanting of “Bharat Mata ki Jai’, the Congress, which wears its secularism on its sleeve, did not even come to the aid of the two members of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad –e-Musimeen (AIMIM) but now those very members, who may not even be affected by the farmers votes, were making common cause with the Congress and the NCP. So was the Samajwadi Party and other smaller parties. The fact that they could all come together in a jiffy and undertake a yatra in the scorching heat of Vidarbha and Marathwada says much about what really is driving them into each other’s arms – the Bharatiya Janata Party.

People were tickled pink to see former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and his ex-deputy Ajit Pawar cheek by jowl with each other throughout the yatra. They have not yet forgotten that Ajit had labelled Chavan as the “worst chief minister Maharashtra has had’ weeks before the 2014 assembly polls and Chavan too was no fan of the Pawars. Yet they seemed to have forgotten their animosity towards each other and , if differences still exist, have been able to put them on hold.

But that has not been all – it was Uddhav who first raised the issue of loan waivers and the Shiv Sena could not be seen as indifferent to the yatra. While it could not have been officially part of the campaign, the party evolved its own strategy by having individual MLAs meet the yatra in their constituencies and be seen by farmers as sympathetic to their cause. That has left only the BJP looking heartless.

It is an existentialist crisis for all the parties, including the Shiv Sena, but there are some issues, particularly for the Congress and the Samajwadi Party, who cannot be seen making common cause with the Sena. So the manner in which they handled their yatra is a precursor to what may evolve in the future – all other parties could come together openly but the Shiv Sena will be covertly supported from behind the scenes.

Even if they become friends again, the Shiv Sena and the BJP would prefer to go their separate ways as fighting singly gets them more seats indvidually than they can win in an alliance. The reverse is true of the Congress and the NCP and the other parties simply do not stand a chance if they do not come to an accommodation with the bigger parties.

Fadnavis, then, has his task cut out for him.

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Necessity makes for strange bedfellows