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Decoding NCP offer to BJP: Is it insurance against action?

NCP's support to the BJP — even if the party eventually turns it down – is just a form of buying insurance against any future action the incoming government might want to take against the NCP members.

columns Updated: Oct 22, 2014 11:06 IST
Sujata Anandan
Sujata Anandan
Hindustan Times
assembly elections,Maharashtra,Maharashtra assembly elections

One should not have been surprised at the complete lack of political morality on the part of the NCP when, hours after the election result trends became clear, it offered outside support to a possible minority BJP government in Maharashtra.

Apart from the fact that this is sheer cynical political opportunism, I had been told by former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan days before the Lok Sabha results that this is what NCP president Sharad Pawar was planning. As the uncrowned king of Maharashtra, Pawar has been ruling the roost even through the Shiv Sena-BJP government of the 1990s.

Despite moving to New Delhi, he continued to control Maharashtra for the past 15 years as the Congress and the NCP were in power. He certainly would not want to let go of his home state and become completely irrelevant.

The Congress was certain even in May this year that no matter how it performed in the Lok Sabha, it would not be able to retain Maharashtra in the October elections. “The Shiv Sena and the BJP have sat out of power for 15 years but now they do not want to carry the baggage of Sharad Pawar.

They feel if they take him on board, he will be dictating terms to them and they are against that,” Chavan had told me.

Knowing Pawar’s unwelcome position in this regard, I can see that he has tried to do again what he failed to do nearly 20 years ago. When he split the Congress in 1999, he had hoped that Congressmen would shift their allegiance to him. They, however, stayed loyal to Sonia Gandhi.

So, sensing a weakened Congress leadership, Pawar tried to grab the Congress from within soon after the Lok Sabha results.

Somehow even in such a dismal state of existence, Congressmen were not motivated to trust him. So now Pawar is trying what he attempted in 1999 soon after the Maharashtra assembly results when the Sena-BJP alliance fell short of a majority (though the Congress had then emerged as the single largest party despite suffering a body blow with the split).

At the time, Pawar had explored the possibility of tying up with the Sena-BJP to keep the Congress in the Opposition but he faced fierce resistance from two quarters — Bal Thackeray threatened to pull out of the alliance with the BJP and sit in the Opposition if the party even considered a tie-up with Pawar and the NCP MLAs protested against even the thought of considering to go saffron.

These circumstances forced Pawar into an alliance with the Congress for the two parties had their business and political interests to protect and they could not have survived, one without the other.

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However, the NCP’s institutional support, like sugar factories and other co-operatives, which had compelled them to stay together with the Congress is clearly on the wane and Pawar has several other irons in the fire. He and his men must protect their business interests, in addition to stalling the investigation by the anti-corruption bureau into various scams in which former NCP ministers, particularly his nephew Ajit Pawar, have been named.

So offering support to the BJP — even if the party eventually turns it down – is just a form of buying insurance against any future action the incoming government might want to take against the NCP members.

The vote in this election has been one against corruption and, therefore, resoundingly against the NCP which, for its acronym, was described by Narendra Modi during the election campaign as “Naturally Corrupt Party”.

Having given the NCP that tag, it would be fun to see whether the BJP would lose its moral high ground and accept Pawar’s offer of support — this is all so reminiscent of George Orwell’s Animal Farm. While the master offers sugar candy to the animals, nothing changes on the ground.

Pawar has been bested before by only one man — PV Narasimha Rao, who saw through him and proved even more devious. Perhaps, Modi, too, will see through the game.

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First Published: Oct 22, 2014 09:23 IST