Trouble started brewing when the two parties declined rapidly from partners in a tenuous alliance to aggressive competitors, each vying to expand its sway in the state, at the other’s expense.
At the centre of this drama is Congress man and state Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, who has been wielding a fist of iron over the NCP for a year now. In fact, he is arguably the first Congress CM who refused to toe the NCP’s line, like his predecessors had been all to glad to do. In the past, Congress CMs have gone beyond the pale to humour their NCP allies, even allowing them to dictate terms about timings and locations of meetings. All that changed when Chavan took the CM’s seat.
So all of NCP’s recent caterwauling seems to be calculated to impress upon the Congress leadership at the Centre that if it doesn’t rein in Chavan, it might lose the NCP from its fragile UPA coalition. Not just that, it will joining forces with other anti-Congress bastions to form the next government in Maharashtra.
At present, the state NCP unit is arguably the strongest in local and civic bodies, with an enviably strong presence in corporations, zilla parishads and panchayat samitis. Little wonder then that the party now wants to attain numero uno position in the state assembly, surpassing the Congress, which occupies 82 seats. NCP’s current strength is 64, and it has the support of 14 independent MLAs. That isn’t much of a margin to write home about.
It would thus be naïve to say that Chavan has been acting independently, without the tacit support of the Congress high command. in Delhi One hopes, however, that the storm blows over soon, before development is sacrificed at the altar of coalition politics.