The ongoing election schedule has probably witnessed the highest ever rebellions at the national as well as state level. Almost each day, at least one or two prominent faces from leading political parties announce their decision to join a different political outfit. There is hardly a thought about loyalty with the party or its ideology, and lesser still about commitment to voters.
These people are opportunists, because they are rebelling in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls. Either they want to settle scores with the party they are leaving, or the party they join has offered them something attractive. Concerns of voters come last, and are taken for granted.
If one attempts to compare rebellions at the national and state level, it offers an interesting picture. At the national level, rebels prefer the BJP to start their new inning, but in Maharashtra, the trend is vice versa and Shiv Sena is losing in a big way. A trend currently witnessed in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh may come as a morale booster for BJP, as many senior leaders from Janata Dal (United) and Congress have chosen BJP as their preferred destination. Even Ram Vilas Paswan surprised many when his Lok Janashakti Party decided to tie up with BJP-led NDA.
In the state, there is a thin line between loyalty towards party and personal egos. While a few prominent faces from the Shiv Sena offered jolts to the party leadership, new political equations are equally baffling. The Lok Sabha polls will be an acid test for Shiv Sena party chief Uddhav Thackeray, who has two big opponents – MNS and NCP – to tackle with. His decision to oppose the MNS having any alliance with the NDA came from an insecurity complex, as he did not want his cousin’s party to get a share, if NDA is voted to power under Narendra Modi.
MNS is now free to oppose Shiv Sena, and its chief Raj Thackeray will begin his campaign saying he cannot be blamed for dividing a sizable vote share of BJP and Shiv Sena, as they have refused to tie up. His decision to field party candidates in eight constituencies, three of which are in Mumbai, rings alarm bells for the Shiv Sena. Raj has spared the BJP by fielding just one candidate from Pune, whereas six MNS candidates will take on the Shiv Sena.
The Sena has less to complain over the MNS’ decision, as it opposed having any sort of political understanding with it.
Besides, the Sena leadership is unable to tame rebels and stop a growing feeling that people are unhappy with it.
Uddhav Thackeray has realised that MNS has a tacit understanding with the Sharad Pawar-led NCP, so his problems are even more grave.
The biggest equation comes up in the Raigad and Maval constituencies, where MNS has decided to support Peasants and Workers Party (PWP) candidates — Laxman Jagtap (Maval) and Ramesh Kadam (Raigad). Both constituencies have Shiv Sena MPs, and NCP is keen to wrest them. The NCP has rubbed salt on Sena’s wounds by nominating Rahul Narvekar from Maval, a party rebel who recently joined NCP. Even the PWP was a Sena ally.
For both Maval and Raigad, Congress veteran A R Antulay, who represented the latter constituency for four terms in Lok Sabha, has decided to support PWP, leaving the NCP high and dry. Another twist comes with PWP’s Raigad LS candidate, Ramesh Kadam’s, decision to back Congress candidate Dr Nilesh Rane in Ratnagiri constituency.
The NCP is welcoming Shiv Sena rebels with open arms, making it as a second alternative after the MNS. After Narvekar, Mohan Rawale followed suit. NCP has ex Sena strongmen such as Chhagan Bhujbal, Ganesh Naik, Bhaskar Jadhav, making NCP a party of Congress and Sena rebels. A few ex BJP men are also there.Recently, NCP’s strong man from Nandurbar, Dr Vijaykumar Gavit, defied warnings issued by party top bosses and let his daughter Dr Heena Gavit join the BJP. He was stripped of his cabinet berth and now faces a show cause notice for expulsion from the party. In all, it shows that there is hardly anything like party ideology or principles; it’s more of political convenience.
For the 48 seats from Maharashtra, six from Mumbai and four in Thane district, the battle is set to intensify. This is just the promo for the grand political cinema after the Lok Sabha polls.
The writer is Political Editor of mid-day