It has now been 12 years since the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) came together to form the Democratic Front government to rule the state. While a cursory look only shows some ripples on the surface, a closer examination of what lies beneath would reveal that all's not quiet on the Democratic front. In fact, the two allies have grown to become bitter rivals in recent days.
What's made them tick? Convenience, for one. Power is a good enough motive to encourage even the bitterest of antagonists to set aside their many differences. But besides this, the rocky partnership has always benefited by being juxtaposed with the rockier Shiv Sena-BJP alliance. Their mammoth failure to maintain even a modicum of cohesiveness has made it impossible for them to dethrone the ruling alliance.
In the troubled corridors of Mantralaya, one can often hear it being whispered that had the Sena-BJP alliance managed to even dissemble that they stood as a united front, unfurling the saffron standard atop the building would have been quite a possibility.
If sources are to be believed, the internal squabbling exacerbates each time Mumbai becomes the target of terrorist attacks. In the wake of the 26/11 attack, it was Ashok Chavan, and post 11/7, it's Prithviraj Chavan -- in both cases, the complaints were identical, with the two CMs claiming that they should have been in charge of the Home Department, and not the respective NCP leaders in question.
Now, the caterwauling is about the deplorable state of power supply. In the past month, the state has been sweating it out, with unannounced and unscheduled load-sheddings continuing for durations as long as six to16 hours.
While Mumbaikars have had it relatively easy, residents in Thane and Navi Mumbai have received the short end of the stick.
This time, State Congress Chief Manikrao Thakre's statement that the CM should investigate the issue has caused a furore among the NCP ranks. Leaping to his own defense, Deputy CM Ajit Pawar, who has been heading the Department of Energy since November last year, has retaliated, challenging the CM to relieve him from the post. What was till now a troubled marriage of lukewarm lovers, has speedily taken a turn for the worse into a game of political one-upmanship.
The truth is that neither Thakre, nor Pawar, and not even the honourable CM, has any solution for the 'mega' deficit of 7000 mega watt of electricity.
So why are the leaders busy taking potshots at each other, instead of going into a Gangulyesque huddle to find a feasible solution?
Well this may well be the only remaining act they have left in their thoroughly depleted bag of tricks -- put up an entertaining dog-and-pony show for all, sling some mud, and deflect all the attention from the real issue at hand. The hard-hitting but well-disguised truth is that the Congress-led government has nothing to offer to the electorate, inspite of its 12-year-long stint at ruling the roost.
Those who are acquainted with Manikrao Thakre's soft-spoken demeanour, may be wondering what triggered the venomous remarks from the sober soul.
The truth is that at present, Thakre is quite irked by Ajit Pawar and his attempts at garnering political leverage for the NCP in his home district of Yavatmal.
In the district, the NCP is busy wooing Uttamrao Patil, a senior Congressman who has represented Yavatmal for a record seven terms in the Lok Sabha, and is quite influential in the district. The Congress would be in choppy waters if Patil suddenly decides to switch loyalties.
For the Congress, it is not the first such googly from Pawar. In the recent past, some prominent faces from various districts, including Latur, have also joined the NCP. This is all thanks to Pawar's tremendous skills at wooing senior leaders into the party's fold, to garner political mileage for the NCP in the run up to the 2012 civic elections.
Needless to say, this is sure to ruffle the already-unsettled feathers of party stalwarts like Vilasrao Deshmukh. Clearly, Ajit Pawar's move has caught Congress leaders off guard, who are mulling ways to salvage their party's prospects. It's time for that huddle, and some all-important introspection.