Maha Vikas Aghadi sets the ball rolling for India
Mission BJP-hatao seems to have got a huge boost after Maharashtra's grand coalition success; will regional parties in other states be able to replicate the coup?
The Maharashtra government, that non-BJP parties had been fantasising about, is now reality. The month-long drama ended with the state getting a tri-partite government that is supported by 169 members in a 288-MLA house. In making it possible, hatchets were buried, diverse ideologies put in cold storage and parties, especially regional forces across the country, given a loud and clear message that the sole goal of ousting the BJP could be achieved if the Opposition stood together. In Maharashtra, the Opposition was joined by an estranged BJP ally, the Shiv Sena, to drive the BJP away into the role of Opposition despite it having the highest numbers in the Assembly.
However, one should not forget an important aspect of the dramatic arrangement, that it happened after the people gave the BJP-Shiv Sena pre-poll alliance a clear mandate to rule the state. We know why the Sena parted ways with the BJP. Now, the question is whether the parties across the country that want the BJP juggernaut stalled will also come together in pre-poll alliances or wait for post-Assembly/Lok Sabha pacts to happen? They will have to weigh the pros and cons of both situations if they are to put up a joint fight against the BJP.
Not in 2-party states
Maharashtra-like pacts shouldn't happen in states where they have two parties locking horns, but we cannot deny the possibility of smaller parties there going with major non-BJP parties. Some two-party states such as Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh have already defeated the BJP and will go to polls again in a couple of years. But, we have seen what has happened to states like Karnataka where the attempt to install a Congress-Janata Dal coalition failed. Odisha proved an exception because of Biju Patnaik's straight victory. Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are ruled by regional parties, who have beaten national parties and state counterparts. Further down south, the game is complicated because of local equations and also because the BJP doesn't have a foothold that could be weakened. The party has been trying to create a space there for itself but not without much success. Acting swiftly, BJP kept its grip on Haryana, but in Maharashtra it failed on many counts. Even a major coup by Ajit Pawar failed because of the Supreme Court's interim orders that ensured cross-voting didn't take place.
That leaves the remaining states in the cow belt where the BJP is either in sole control or runs in coalition. Uttar Pradesh is one crucial state where a pre-poll Maha Gathbandhan of Samajwadi Party and BJP didn't work in the Lok Sabha election. The Congress hadn't joined SP-BJP and also ended up losing Rahul Gandhi's seat among many others. Should we expect the Congress, which was initially reluctant but finally gave up all reservations in deciding to support an ideological stranger Sena in Maharashtra, to form a pre-poll axis with the SP and BSP in UP? The SP and BSP are not ideologically very different from the Congress though they have some extras that got them good results to install and re-instate their governments at the cost of the Gandhi-led party. In UP, where politics is nothing short of a celluloid thriller, the BJP had hijacked the entire space of a national party from the Congress long ago, with two regional forces in the Opposition. Some of UP's coalitions had BJP and BSP together in the past.
Jharkhand inspired by MVA
Jharkhand is going through a prolonged election process now and the BJP there is as confident of winning a majority as it was in Maharashtra and Haryana. The turn of events in Maharashtra should impact Jharkhand's politics, too, if the verdict goes against BJP's projections. The leaders who succeeded in theMaha Vikas Aghadi experiment are now eying a flickering Goa. They also say Bihar will be their next destination because CM Nitish Kumar who heads a coalition with BJP isn't too happy with the 'bullying' partner. Actually, Bihar had voted against the BJP when Nitish and Lalu Prasad Yadav's party went to the polls together but later broke away. Nitish returned to the BJP. With their honeymoon period coming to an end and several BJP-prompted decisions going against his ideology, Nitish is learnt to have developed a strong desire to stop the BJP in next year's Assembly polls. He is already getting feelers from Lalu's RJD. "If non-BJP parties come together, then NDA will be defeated in Bihar. One should not be surprised if JDU and RJD join hands again and I think there is no option left to defeat BJP," former RJD minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh was quoted as saying after Uddhav Thackeray was sworn in as Maharashtra CM.
In West Bengal, CM Mamata Banerjee is preparing for yet another term in 2021 in the backdrop of BJP's aggressive posturing. Her Trinamool Congress swept last week's Assembly by-polls in BJP strongholds. Considering her past record, she might not get her previous party, the Congress and other secular parties, as part of her mission because she likes to fight her battles alone. But that does not mean that she does not approve of Maha Vikas Aghadi-like experiments. She was happy to know about the BJP's exit, but couldn't attend Thackeray's oath-taking because of the by-polls.
Dharmendra Jore is political editor, mid-day. He tweets @dharmendrajore Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
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