Uddhav’s ambition, Gandhi’s dilemma, and Pawar’s pattern

The question is if Sonia Gandhi can trust Pawar enough to not throw the Congress under the bus in the months ahead if this government becomes a reality
President of NCP Sharad Pawar and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray(Pratik Chorge/HT FILE Photo)
President of NCP Sharad Pawar and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray(Pratik Chorge/HT FILE Photo)
Updated on Nov 21, 2019 06:35 AM IST
Copy Link
Hindustan Times | By

Television news screens can be surreal without intending to be, as on Wednesday. News flashed of yet another meeting between the leaders of Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) – one more in a seemingly endless saga that started about three weeks ago – in New Delhi to hammer out a common minimum programme (CMP) that will guide their unnatural and ideologically dissimilar alliance with the Shiv Sena should they together form the government in Maharashtra. News also flashed about a loud protest held in the capital by Congress workers against the removal of the Special Protection Group (SPG) cover to party president Sonia Gandhi and her children Rahul and Priyanka.

That the SPG cover was removed by an increasingly insecure government of the day reeks of vendetta politics, especially given that the Gandhis have lost family members to assassinations. That the Congress party chose to take to the streets over this issue rather than any of the dozen others like economic slowdown or electoral corruption through bonds or Kashmir clampdown top-lining the nation’s news speaks of a stunning disconnect with ground realities. Had it taken on the Modi government on issues affecting millions of citizens, as an opposition party ought to have, it might have found more resonance for its protest on the SPG cover removal.

This disconnect is what many of its 44 newly-elected MLAs have been citing in the last few days; they would like to ally even with the Sena and claim a share in power while the party leadership has been prevaricating. To be sure, the Congress is placed fourth in the tally of seats won and, therefore, has no obligation to help form the government. That it suddenly found itself in this position must have caused its leadership more unease than satisfaction. Commentators, advisors and its own leaders who rail against the party perhaps fail to see that the Congress has a great deal to lose in this game when the unnatural alliance comes apart.

The Congress’ prevarication is not without basis, given its long and complex history with the Sena. Never mind that the Sena in its early days received tacit or otherwise encouragement from the then Congress leaders to defeat their own like VK Krishna Menon or front their opposition to communists and the late Bal Thackeray lustily cheered the late Indira Gandhi for her move to impose the Emergency, there are key ideological differences and personal baggage. There can be no common ground between the parties on issues like Bharat Ratna to VD Savarkar or linguistic sub-nationalism.

Thackeray – and by extension, the Sena – was particularly acerbic to Sonia Gandhi. His disparaging imitation of her accented Hindi, snide remarks about her character, antipathy to the dynastic principle while remaining blind to nurturing his own are matters of record. In an interview to his party paper months before he passed away in 2012, Thackeray referred to Gandhi pushing Rahul as PM and asked if “the PM’s post is a chair to be found in Bhendi Bazar”. Uddhav Thackeray too has been highly critical and caustic, even referring to Rahul Gandhi as unpatriotic.

More than a CMP, what would determine the fate of this unnatural alliance based on anti-BJPism is common minimum understanding. Can the parties arrive at this? If they failed to find this in three weeks of hectic negotiations, does it signal an unstable alliance already? How far can they hope that the anti-BJPism will take them? There are strong arguments for the Congress to ally and equally strong to not; either decision will have adverse consequences.

At the heart of this lies the game that the old Maratha warrior Sharad Pawar has been playing. Pawar is a pro at the game of manoeuvre and intrigue, he holds the trump card. Only he has held one-to-one meetings with Sonia Gandhi, Uddhav Thackeray, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The last, we were told, was on the issue of providing relief to farmers reeling under floods and drought but there must have been more. Pawar is personally secular, but politically and ideologically flexible; he had offered the BJP support in 2014 without being asked. He had cut across party lines to form a government back in 1978. He had also challenged Gandhi’s leadership in 1999 and set up his own off-shoot party.

The question is not only if Gandhi can ally with an ideological opponent like Thackeray but also if she can trust Pawar enough to not throw the Congress under the bus in the months ahead if this government becomes a reality.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    When the Siddhartha Vihar Hostel in Wadala was brought down, floor by floor, in early February by the BMC, a piece of Mumbai’s history associated with Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar was obliterated.

Close Story
QUICKREADS

Less time to read?

Try Quickreads

  • An Ola cabs journey went bad when agents stopped a cab to recover loans and left customers stranded in a highway.

    How a Bengaluru man and his family were 'abandoned' by an Ola cab on a highway

    A Bengaluru resident's journey to Mysore with Vikas Gowda's family ended in a nightmare after they were stranded on the highway in the middle of a trip. In a Twitter thread which has gone viral, Vikas Gowda has narrated his ordeal on what he described as a 'one of the worst, traumatising experiences'. In a series of tweets, Gowda recalled he booked an outstation Ola trip with his family to travel back to Mysuru.

  • According to the advisory, no pilgrim will be allowed to go beyond Rishikesh without registration.

    Chardham Yatra: Uttarakhand govt mandates registration for devotees 

    The Uttarakhand government on Tuesday, issued an advisory for the Chardham yatra pilgrims to mandatorily register themselves before commencing their journey. The government has urged the devotees to start their journey only after checking the registration slots available on the portal of the Uttarakhand Tourism Department. The tourism department has also set a certain limit for the registration of pilgrims in the state.

  • A damaged bus that overturned after driver lost control on Lucknow-Agra Expressway, in Unnao district, Tuesday. (PTI)

    Three killed, 25 injured as double-decker bus overturns in U.P.’s Unnao

    Three people were killed and 25 people were severely injured when double-decker bus carrying 50 passengers overturned on Agra-Lucknow Expressway near Bangarmau area of Unnao on Tuesday morning, police said. The bus went out of control and flipped near Sidharpur village of Unnao district, SDM Bangarmau Ankit Shukla said. While one person died on the spot two others succumbed during treatment in hospital. Police were trying to establish the identity of two others.

  • Hasan Ali Khan HT File Photo

    11 years later, PMLA court frames charges against Hasan Ali Khan

    Over 11 years after Khan's arrest on money-laundering charges, a special PMLA (Prevention of Money Laundering Act) court on Tuesday framed charges against Pune-based stud farm owner Hasan Ali Khan and set the stage for starting his trial, at a time when the 70-year-old is critically ill and hospitalised. Special PMLA judge M G Deshpande framed charges against Khan through videoconferencing, in the presence of his counsel, advocate Prashant Patil.

  • Five members of inter-state gang arrested in Prayagraj. (HT Photo)

    Five members of inter-state gang arrested for theft at Prayagraj hotel

    Joint teams of Civil Lines police and Special Operation Group arrested five members of inter-state Jackie Gang involved in sensational theft of cash and jewellery during an engagement function of the nephew of high court Judge at Hotel Kanha Shyam in Civil Lines area on May 12. Some members of the gang are still at large, police said. To note, Chandra Prakash Kesarwani of Ashok Nagar area is brother of a high court judge.

SHARE
Story Saved
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Tuesday, May 17, 2022