When need for power or survival pips ideology
Over the last few days, the only thing that is being talked about in Maharashtra politics is the exodus from the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party to the ruling BJP and Shiv Sena.
It started ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, with the defection of Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil and Vijaysinh Mohite-Patil. With the BJP returning to power at the Center and possibility of the BJP-Sena alliance in the state retaining power, several politicians from the Opposition parties are making a beeline to swap allegiances. The saffron parties are leaving no stone unturned to retain power in Maharashtra and as such, are welcoming the strong legislators as well as leaders who would add to their tally in the Assembly.
Last week, Mumbai NCP chief Sachin Ahir crossed over to the Shiv Sena. Chitra Wagh, who was heading NCP’s women’s wing, has quit the party and is likely to join the BJP. Four-five Congress-NCP legislators are expected to join the BJP on Wednesday. This is likely to include NCP legislators Sandip Naik and Vaibhav Pichad. Their fathers, Ganesh Naik and Madhukar Pichad are senior leaders of the NCP. Another senior NCP leader Manohar Naik’s son Indraneel is also in touch with the BJP. It remains to be seen whether Madhukar Pichad, Manohar Naik and Ganesh Naik join the BJP. Of them, Pichad has been known as a close associate of Pawar since the duo were in the Congress. A tribal leader, Pichad was one of the founders of the NCP and was even its state unit chief. Brother of Sudhakarrao Naik who was chief minister of Maharashtra between 1991 and 1993, Manohar Naik has been with the NCP since day one.
Congress’ Mumbai legislator Kalidas Kolambkar too is hopping onto the BJP bandwagon. The party’s other legislators such as Sunil Kedar, Jaykumar Gore, Gopaldas Agarwal and Abdul Sattar are in the queue as well.
So why are these leaders deserting the Congress-NCP en masse? The reasons are different. Some of them want to be in power. They have been away from power for five years and staying in the Opposition for another five years would be difficult for them. In some cases, it is about the local equations. They are worried their local rivals are becoming dominant. In some cases, the leaders want to prevent any action against them in pending cases related to different kinds of irregularities.
This is not something new in Maharashtra politics. Defections of leaders have been part of the political culture for the past few decades. Several high profile leaders such as Chhagan Bhubjal (Shiv Sena), Narayan Rane (Shiv Sena) and Dhananjay Munde (BJP) had quit their respective parties to join Congress or NCP which were the ruling at that time. Before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, even senior BJP leader Gopinath Munde was in talks with the Congress, though he chose to remain with the BJP.
As long as NCP is concerned, the party is witnessing a reversal in the trend it had seen earlier. In 1998 when it was formed, a large number of leaders from Congress and even Sena and BJP had joined it.
In fact, the NCP was often described as a party of leaders who did not need a party banner to get elected. They wanted the party to be in power. Till the NCP was in power, these leaders stuck to it. The party too was benefitted by their support. Now, several of them are deserting it for greener pastures, or at least to retain what they have.
In comparison, it is a sorry state of affairs for the Congress. The party is supposed to be one that believes in secular ideology but now several of its legislators are making a beeline to join the parties that have contempt for secularism. Over the years, elective merit became the only criteria for the Congress to field its people for elections and it is paying for that now. Need for power or need for political survival is shadowing the ideology.
Today’s party swapping is not happening for the first time and the current spate of defections won’t be the last such instance.