Nursery rhyme politics in Maharashtra

I may be mistaken, but I thought the Nationalist Congress Party was no longer a Congress ally and was supporting the BJP government in Maharashtra.

columns Updated: Jul 14, 2015 21:53 IST
Sujata Anandan
Sujata Anandan
Hindustan Times
Maharashtra politics,NCP,BJP
Opposition party members staged a protest on the first day of Maharashtra legislature’s monsoon session at the Vidhan Bhavan, in Mumbai. (Anshuman Poyrekar/HT photo)

I may be mistaken, but I thought the Nationalist Congress Party was no longer a Congress ally and was supporting the BJP government in Maharashtra.

This week, however, ahead of the monsoon session of the state legislature, the party smoothly transited into a relationship with the Congress again - top leaders, including Sharad Pawar's nephew, Ajit Pawar - were part of a meeting with Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, the Congress Party's leader of Opposition, to set strategy to gherao the government in the house.

They even stood shoulder to shoulder in the Assembly to drown Pankaja Munde and Vinod Tawde, the two ministers under attack for alleged improprieties, with nursery rhymes such as Baa Baa Black Sheep.

And one that must really have hit Pankaja hard - taking off from 'Johnny, Johnny, Yes Papa', replacing 'Johnny' and 'sugar' with 'Pankaja' and 'chikki'.

It is obvious, then, that these scams are not going away in a hurry and chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has been particularly unlucky in that he got embroiled in a case not of his making - the delay of an Air India aircraft flying to the US because one of his aides forgot to carry with him a passport that had the valid visa, and lost time in getting relatives to fetch it for him!

Of course, Fadnavis has ordered an inquiry into the cause of delay, but here I tend to agree with former CM Prithviraj Chavan - it will not take much effort to fix that inquiry by arm twisting Air India officials to indict their own staff and dismiss the delay as a technical snag. But no one will believe it - either way the damage will be done.

Fadnavis had threatened to sue anybody who blamed him for the delay of that aircraft. This I do not think would have been sustainable under the law. But then, a Congress worker played into his hands by lifting a family vacation photograph from Fadnavis' social media account and passing it off as a ride on a yacht in the US. This photograph was neither morphed, nor in any way made to look indecent so how defamatory could it be?

In any case, no harm was done to the CM's image because journalists were quick to spot the mischief but, I think, it is just as well that a case is being made out against the mischievous Congress worker for two reasons - the outcome might help to prevent such mischief by other photoshoppers on the net (of which there are plenty) and that it is best to set the record straight.

For, I remember Sharad Pawar, as chief minister, had refused to take action against GR Khairnar, a relatively junior municipal officer, for claiming he had trucksfull of evidence against him. Pawar had felt at his stature action against Khairnar would be like using a hammer to swat a fly.

But then Khairnar's allegations, without a shred of proof, did lasting damage to Pawar.

It was only after Pawar sued certain newspapers (including one I was working for then) for Rs 100 crore each for carrying forward those allegations linking him to Dawood Ibrahim and havala rackets that those innuendos ceased.

Of course, one can see the pressure the current CM is under. Perhaps he recognises the shift in the political dynamics of the state and continues to need the NCP as a buffer against a constantly nagging Shiv Sena. As such, Pawar has been dropping ample hints that he expects mid-term polls in the state. Clearly, now, Pawar is attempting to turn Fadnavis into a Humpty Dumpty and the CM is only trying to prevent that fall!

First Published: Jul 14, 2015 21:51 IST