Yes, the NCP has no ideology
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Yes, the NCP has no ideology

mumbai Updated: Oct 09, 2018 23:22 IST
Sujata Anandan
Sujata Anandan
Hindustan Times

NCP chief Sharad Pawar waves during the party's 'Vijay Sankalp rally' in Beed, Maharashtra on Oct 1(HT Photo)

Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis recently made an observation that I thought was profound and quite worthy of a veteran political analyst – the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has no ideology, he said, and will go with whoever it thinks will benefit the party.

At the moment, the NCP sees much advantage in rallying with the Congress and so is leaning left again. But neither Fadnavis nor too many people would have forgotten how the NCP bided its time until the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) broke its ties with the Shiv Sena just ahead of the assembly elections in 2014 and then within minutes (not even an hour) announced it was pulling out of its alliance with the Congress. At that time NCP leaders had thought, given that they had four seats in the Lok Sabha and the Congress only two, they would do much better at the assembly elections. But even then the lame duck Congress pulled ahead of the NCP and the party’s political promiscuity came to the fore when, unsolicited, they announced support to the minority BJP government in the state. But the BJP really had no time for the NCP and it is largely Fadnavis’ bitter opposition to aligning with a party he and other BJP leaders had targeted for their massive corruption while in government that has kept them at bay.

Nevertheless, over the past four years, there has been a bitter tussle within the NCP on whether to swing right or left but they have stayed centrist, not for lack of trying. The NCP’s promiscuity comes from the business and other interests of its leaders – they need to be on the right side of any government in power. With the BJP ruling both the state and the Centre, they were bound to seek accommodation with the ruling party but there were political compulsions of some other leaders who are on marginal seats and many of them with substantial minority votes who compelled the party to stay the course.

Now that it looks as though the BJP is nationally on a weak wicket, the NCP is seeking sustenance from the Congress again. Despite the multiple factions in the Congress, all rivals agree that they need the NCP to win the next election but I wonder if they have not noted the fact that there is no political movement towards the NCP. Those deserting the BJP ship are mostly gravitating towards the Congress at the district and taluka levels; some, in limited pockets, towards the Shiv Sena. No one is eyeing the NCP even in the sugar belt where it seems to have alienated most of its voters, as was obvious from the loss of Sangli, an NCP bastion, to the BJP, in recent elections.

Much of this alienation comes from the continuing arrogance of the party’s leaders at most levels and the confusing signals that even Sharad Pawar sends out by playing hot and cold with both the Congress and the BJP. Fadnavis’ assertion that the NCP had no ideology, instantly led me to draw parallels with Bal Thackeray and the Shiv Sena at its peak – both the leader and the workers had no ideology except serving their own interests. How they served those self-interests is a matter of record and bears no repetition. Not until the BJP’s Pramod Mahajan sought an alliance with the Shiv Sena did the party find an anchor in Hindutva and stayed the course for a quarter century. Before that Thackeray was prone to shrillness against Muslims during his poll campaigns and then would think nothing of tying up with the Indian Muslim League to get the post of standing committee chairman in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation. Much like Pawar is doing today – first praise Modi to the skies, then call him the worst leader the country has seen so far.

Predictably, it is not only BJP workers who are gravitating towards Congress, but its own confused workers are also itching to jump ship and hitch their wagons to the Congress.

By now it is an established fact that while the NCP is unwelcome in the saffron alliance, it cannot come to power anywhere without the Congress. And while political compulsions might bring the Shiv Sena and BJP ultimately together, who needs whom the more between the Congress and the NCP is a question that really begs no answer. The Congress will still live to tell the tale without the NCP. The NCP will be history without the Congress.

First Published: Oct 09, 2018 23:22 IST