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Pawar may still deal out an ace

The developments in Mumbai over the past couple of weeks have certain political dimensions, which could impact on both the state as well as national politics, writes Pankaj Vohra.

india Updated: Feb 14, 2010 21:39 IST
Pankaj Vohra

The developments in Mumbai over the past couple of weeks have certain political dimensions, which could impact on both the state as well as national politics. On the one hand, young Rahul Gandhi emulating his grandmother Indira Gandhi’s brand of politics virtually raided the city despite threats from the Shiv Sena thus reiterating that Bombay belonged to all Indians. On the other, Sharad Pawar, the NCP supremo and Maharashtra’s tallest leader resurrected the demoralised Sena by calling on Bal Thackeray the next day ostensibly to broker peace during the IPL matches since they would feature Australian players.

The spillover of the politicking, which is at the centre of the present storm, has led to a huge controversy revolving around Shah Rukh Khan’s latest release, My Name Is Khan thereby bringing the Shiv Sena back to the centrestage of state politics. Those who believe that Pawar had gone to the Thackeray residence to talk about the IPL must be naïve since the Maratha who has been under fire from Congress leaders regarding the price rise issue is exploring other options.

What is happening in Maharashtra at one level also has a political appeal directed not so much at the Marathi manoos but the manoos in Bihar where elections are expected later this year. In this context, statements by Congress leaders lauding the contribution of North Indians, particularly those from Bihar in the affairs of Bombay are aimed at addressing that constituency in the state. It is no surprise that like the Congress, the BJP too has been condemning the chauvinistic and divisive politics of the Shiv Sena. It boils down to posturing before the state assembly polls.

The genesis of the present trouble can possibly be traced to repeated attempts to downsize Sharad Pawar during the past few months. The coalition partners formed the government in the state after many hiccups largely because some leaders spoke out of turn against Pawar. Subsequently, the central government during its second avatar and facing acute criticism on the price rise issue has tried to shift the blame on to Pawar. After all with a world-renowned team of top economists — Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia besides the seasoned Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, how can Pawar alone be blamed?

As if this was not enough, there are elements in the Congress who have been talking about divesting Pawar of some of his portfolios during the long-awaited Cabinet reshuffle. Simultaneously, Rahul Gandhi’s increasing popularity among the youth is making some in his own party uncomfortable since this can lead to their positions being affected. Their aim is to contribute to a climate of instability and prevent Rahul from becoming more powerful.

Thus when Rahul Gandhi without caring for his own safety visited Bombay and outwitted the Sena, the crafty Maratha chose to resurrect Bal Thackeray and the irrelevant Sena by sending a message that his permission to conduct the IPL in Mumbai smoothly was required. The implication was that the state government under Ashok Chavan (Rahul’s choice) was not in control of things. Many political analysts would also infer that theoretically if Pawar’s position were threatened at the central level, he would have no qualms about forming an alternative government in the state with the BJP-Sena. A logical corollary would be that the stability of the central government where he is a partner would also get threatened.

Therefore, politically, the Congress-NCP relations could determine the future of both the state and central government. Pawar is not one to withdraw from any coalition without inflicting maximum damage. He will draw a blueprint which has at its core ‘power sharing’ and not merely ‘ideological beliefs’ since the government’s economic policies are not necessarily benefiting the aam aadmi. Power and not ideology as everyone knows is the biggest cementing force. Between us.