Why Shiv Sena, Congress, NCP plan to come together in Maharashtra
Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray held closed door meetings with NCP chief Sharad Pawar and senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel.Updated: Nov 19, 2019 05:57 IST
Last week saw some most unexpected events in Maharashtra’s recent political history.
Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray held closed door meetings with NCP chief Sharad Pawar and senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel. Shiv Sena leaders participated in brainstorming sessions with Congress and NCP leaders to work out common agenda for governance if they form a government. Next few days could see more instances that were probably unimaginable in Maharashtra till a few days ago.
Many in the saffron parties still can’t believe that the Shiv Sena will actually form a government with Congress and NCP. In state’s political circles, it was a known fact that Thackeray did not trust Pawar much. It was also well known that several Congress leaders in Maharashtra were suspicious of Pawar’s intentions. Now, all these people may be seen sitting together, vowing to solve the problems of Maharashtra. So why is it that the three parties are coming together to form a government?
Their main agenda is to keep the BJP out of power. What happened in the past five years when the BJP was in power in the state and at the Centre is the reason behind this.
All the three parties feel that the BJP is trying to finish them off and their survival could be at stake if it returns to power in the state.
In case of Shiv Sena, the BJP forced it to accept the role of a junior partner and was eventually planning to reduce their space in the state politics as they have a common voter base. In 2014, the Sena grudgingly accepted a raw deal to join a BJP-led government as it feared poaching on its MLAs by the latter. Thackeray tried to get back his space by way of a pre-poll pact, but the BJP again compelled him to accept fewer Assembly seats after it won power at the Centre with a massive mandate. The 2017 Mumbai civic elections sounded a warning bell for the Sena as the BJP won almost equal seats (two less than Sena’s 84). Losing Mumbai civic body could be a major blow to the Sena.
In case of Pawar, Devendra Fadnavis and his party tried to cut him to size in past five years. Through these five years, a battle between Fadnavis and Pawar was visible with the former trying to end Pawar’s influence on state politics bit by bit. The last straw on the camel’s back was the Enforcement Directorate case. A shrewd Pawar sensed an opportunity and turned it into a Delhi vs Maharashtra fight. His party got the benefit as Pawar’s spirited campaign evoked good response in the state. He now wants to recover the lost ground and re-strengthen his network. He knows next round of this fight could be disastrous for his party unless he has power in hand in Maharashtra.
As long as the Congress is concerned, preventing the BJP from retaining power in a state like Maharashtra would have impact nationally. It will not just be party’s revenge on Modi-Shah duo for wresting power in Karnataka, but getting control of the state that has financial capital of India. As long as larger picture is concerned, the developments in Maharashtra could also lead to similar anti-BJP coalitions coming up in other states. Congress leaders think it could benefit them.
There are pros as well as cons in forming a three-party government in Maharashtra and that is why there have been days and days of deliberations in both Congress and NCP camps before actually arriving at the decision. Congress is wary of losing minority votes by tying up with Shiv Sena. There is risk of losing face if BJP manages to pull off Operation Lotus as it did in Karnataka by wooing dissident MLAs. There could be a political mess in Maharashtra if the three-party government fails to function effectively due to the contradictions within it.
Whatever are the consequences, the three main players in this political drama, Sonia Gandhi, Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thackeray will have to take a call on this joint venture in next few days. Else, the BJP is waiting in the wings.