People of the state are confused over the internal fights within the Congress-NCP and BJP-Shiv Sena camps on the issue of seat sharing, when less than a month is left for the state assembly elections. Despite being known as united forces, all four parties are issuing threats of going solo.
But, in case of the BJP and Shiv Sena, it cannot be ignored that they were never a united political force on record, except in 1995, when they wrested power from the Congress. To explain it better, in a parliamentary democracy, a political party gets true recognition when it sends its representatives to Parliament or a state legislature. And once a party succeeds in this, it has to identify whether it is a part of the ruling side or the opposition.
Though the Shiv Sena and BJP proclaim their alliance is more than 25 years old, they never officially informed the state legislature on paper, except in 1995, that they are in alliance and have a common group leader to identify them. In 1995, Manohar Joshi of Shiv Sena and Gopinath Munde of the BJP gave a letter bearing such information, to identify the Shiv Sena and BJP as a coalition. The letter was submitted to the then governor and the state legislature, to stake its claim for power.
Both the parties, now engaged in an ugly fight over seat sharing, have rarely joined hands to wage a battle against the government over its misdeeds or wrong policies. For a lay man, it is difficult even to remember one agitation they jointly organised against the government over a public cause. Both the parties have organised their own morchas, dharnas separately, be it on drought relief or any other issue. In simple terms, the Sena-BJP is not a cohesive opposition force, but a political equation pursuing the goal of attaining power. A joint political force is formed when two separate political identities fight for a common cause.
And here, in the case of the saffron combine, the cause is to assume power. In that pursuit, it could have been appropriate for both the parties to expand their base. But, no serious efforts were made in this regard in the last 15 years, when Congress and NCP ruled the state. Accordingly, it would be appropriate for both the parties to contest the elections separately and win the confidence of the people through the ballot box.
Fight for the top
The current bickering is actually for the CM’s post. The BJP wants the coveted chair, as it feels this is a lifetime opportunity. The Sena wants to install its own man; the question of which leader from the Sena is capable enough to lead the government is secondary. The BJP wants a few seats from the 59 constituencies where Shiv Sena candidates have never won. In other words, the BJP wants these seats because most of them are in western Maharashtra, and rebels from the Congress and NCP — which are strong in these areas — are willing to join the BJP to defeat their party stalwarts.
For them, joining the Shiv Sena is not a preferable option and the BJP, in pursuit of the CM’s post, is ready to induct these people with clout from western Maharashtra. And Sena, by denying these seats, is actually helping the Congress and NCP indirectly, feels the BJP. Arguments and counter arguments have been exchanged over the issue.
On the other hand, the scene in the Congress and NCP camps is no different. People have seen numerous instances where both parties have differed on issues. Criticism against the CM and ministers within the ruling alliance is a regular feature.
The NCP wants 144 seats, a demand unacceptable to the Congress. The NCP argues that the Congress has won just two Lok Sabha seats and they have won four, and this gives them an advantage to contest more seats than they did in 2009. The Congress has refused to accede to these demands, fearing the NCP will expand its base in new constituencies and try to defeat Congress candidates by fielding rebels. It is clear that in the first opportunity they are given, the NCP would like to dethrone CM Prithviraj Chavan, who has been their nemesis.
In fact, both the Congress and the NCP should also go their separate ways, so that voters have the discretion to decide which party is best suited to rule the state. It seems the days of alliance governments are over, and people want a single-party government to evaluate performances for future elections.
The writer is Political Editor of mid-day