With several local and civic bodies going to polls, the entire state is in the grips of election fever. The political slugfest, involving senior leaders of ruling Congress-NCP alliance is in full flow. The poking and chiding continues unabated even as opposition parties remain mute spectators.
A cursory glance at the jibes is enough to reveal the state of affairs. This is what NCP leader and Deputy CM Ajit Pawar had to say about his cabinet colleague Narayan Rane: "He has lost his balance and has a habit of making a fuss whenever something goes against his wishes. Remember his rant against his own party when denied the chief minister's post (in 2008). I don't care what he says."
Earlier, Rane in his bastion Sindhudurg took potshots at Pawar and said Pune (home district of the Pawars) has been hit by a spate of robberies, land-grabbing and kidnapping. "Don't ever dare to take me on, or else I will expose you publicly in Pune and Sangli (home district of RR Patil)," he claimed. Not to be left behind, Home Minister and NCP leader RR Patil said about Rane: "Why such tantrums? Is it just over a decision to relieve two policemen from their (Rane and his son) security cover?" Both Ajit Pawar and Patil had during recent visits to Sindhudurg attacked Rane, saying the district was living in terror (of his family).
Speaking about Agriculture Minister Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, Pawar said, "Though his name is Radhakrishna, he has indulged in a different sort of Krishnaleela. People are aware of what's going on in Mula-Pravara Electric Co-operative Society, controlled by him."
"Everyone knows what happened during Pawar's tenure as water resources minister. Will he show some courage to go for a CBI inquiry over the decisions taken during the period?" Vikhe Patil retorted. Here's Union minister and ex-Maharashtra CM Vilasrao Deshmukh's invective towards his ally. "NCP is not a political party. It's a group of unhappy people. They are our real political opponents. But, they can't compete with Congress," he said.
And finally, here's one from the chief minister. "NCP is born out of personal ambition of a few leaders. Our fight is with them only," Prithviraj Chavan said.
While the common man continues to pine for good governance, the war of words continues within the state government's own ranks. Sensing trouble in the future, NCP chief Sharad Pawar advised his party men to avoid personal attacks. But, he chided the CM saying NCP leaders did not need advice from people who have not been elected directly. In fact, Pawar was said to be perturbed at the level of the attacks and the name of his daughter Supriya Sule being dragged into it. At the same time, he appeared alert enough to realise that the infighting might prove beneficial to Shiv Sena, BJP and MNS, eagerly waiting for such opportunities.
But the opposition has failed to cash in. This political apathy and indecisiveness is a cause of concern as a weak opposition is the last thing you need when in quest of strong democracy. Currently, the entire opposition is a divided house. Raj Thackeray had to face revolt from party men who marched to his Shivaji Park residence. This happened despite his efforts to select candidates for the BMC polls on merit through an examination. The Sena was so worried that it announced the list of its candidates only after the process of filing of nomination was over. BJP too has been unable to pacify its rebels.
As far as leaders are concerned, no one in the BJP appears capable enough to hold the party together at the state level. The situation is not different in the case of its ally as Sena executive chief Uddhav Thackeray did not venture out of Mumbai to campaign for local body elections. Raj Thackeray seems uninterested about what happens beyond Mumbai, Thane, Pune and Nashik civic bodies, leave aside the local body elections.
This could have worked to the government's advantage had Congress and NCP leaders not been occupied with the game of one-upmanship. Disbursement of tickets to kith and kin of established leaders is a long-standing allegation, which party spokespersons have no easy answers for. Perhaps it's time for the people of the state to gently remind leaders from all parties of what their priorities should be.
-- The writer is Political Editor, MiD DAY