So the BJP and the Shiv Sena are back to where they once belonged in an alliance. And in power too. What was touted as a permanent, irreparable break during and after the Maharashtra Assembly election in October when both of them walked out of an alliance that had withstood severe stress and strain in the past, pundits had promptly reached for their pens to write the obituary of the ‘Yuti’. Cassandras are now proven wrong.
Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis along with Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray during the swearing-in ceremony for the new ministers yesterday. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi
It is inconsequential as to who won and who lost after burying the hatchet. Politics is neither a T20 cricket match nor a 140-character tweet. It is played out over several innings and the real action more often than not is in the clubhouse and not the field. No political deal is ever carved in stone or cast in iron; even if the big type remains constant, the fine print is never permanent: it continues to change.
In other words, to gloat over Shiv Sena being made to eat humble pie and accept a reunion on the BJP’s terms is meaningless. What appears to be a no-win deal for the Sena today could evolve, with time, into a balanced power-sharing arrangement that is beneficial to both the BJP and the Shiv Sena. What is of importance is that neither side chose to remain intransigent.
This not to suggest that there are no losers in this game that was played out over the past few months. There are those in the BJP who were pushing, if not overtly then covertly, for an alliance with the NCP which Prime Minister Narendra Modi described as the ‘Naturally Corrupt Party’ in his campaign speeches. An alliance with the NCP was seen as useful for two purposes: first, it would isolate the Shiv Sena; and, second, it would ensure a more relaxed approach towards rectitude and probity both in Mumbai and New Delhi.
Isolating the Shiv Sena would have made no sense. Wounded and abandoned, it would have been a thorn in the flesh for the BJP, more so Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and his team. As for opening the doors of the NDA to the NCP, it would have indelibly sullied the image of Modi Sarkar which so far has remained untainted. Those who matter in the BJP were not blind to either fact.
In a sense, the sly attempt to make a patch-up impossible was nipped in the bud when the Chief Minister’s job was denied to others who had their eyes on ‘Varsha’. Once out of the race, the move to get the NCP on board automatically lost steam. For the anti-Fadnavis faction, this came as a blow. For, coincidentally, or perhaps not, those pushing for an alliance with the NCP were also eager to see Fadnavis denied the trophy which is justly his.
The other losers are those leaders of the NCP who thought they could jump onto the NDA gravy train by offering to support the BJP in forming a minority Government and winning the trust vote in the Assembly. When they realised that there was no scope for the first, they recalibrated their stand. “It is not our job to ensure the government’s stability,” Sharad Pawar let it be known, darkly hinting at the BJP’s dependence on the NCP.
Now that the NCP does not have to cohabit political space and share power with the BJP, Pawar should be happy. Socialists (as Pawar sees his party) and capitalists (as he sees the BJP) are like oil and water. They neither mix nor retain their combustible or calming qualities when shaken together.
Having said this, it would be in order to put in a caveat. A BJP-Shiv Sena alliance will no doubt ensure the stability of the Maharashtra government, but it will also mean dealing with a difficult partner. There is no autonomy under the system of collective responsibility and ministers who owe allegiance to the Shiv Sena will have to accept the leadership of the BJP, namely Fadnavis. If that doesn’t happen, then squabbling will outweigh stability.
Uddhav Thackeray has shown maturity by not letting naysayers in his party influence him after the disastrous consequences of contesting the election alone. Presumably, he has also realised that it’s bad politics to allow rhetoric to descend into personal attacks as was witnessed during the election campaign. Hopefully he will make judicious use of the remote control he holds, keeping the Sena ministers on a tight leash and putting Saamna’s editor on notice.
The writer is a senior journalist based in the National Capital Region. His Twitter handle is @KanchanGupta