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Home > Mumbai > Mumbai News > Article > How Maharashtras Devendra Fadnavis Vinod Tawde crippled INDIA alliance even before the battle

How Maharashtra's Devendra Fadnavis & Vinod Tawde crippled INDIA alliance even before the battle

Updated on: 30 January,2024 01:56 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Sanjeev Shivadekar |

Every time the opposition bloc seemed like it was gaining momentum, a senior Maharashtra BJP leader has been deployed to scuttle their moves

How Maharashtra's Devendra Fadnavis & Vinod Tawde crippled INDIA alliance even before the battle

Illustration/Uday Mohite

While most of the focus about the developments in Bihar is on Nitish Kumar’s capricious nature, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in-charge of the state, Vinod Tawde’s role has gone under the radar.

Coupled with Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’s apparent engineering of a split in the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) six months ago, the two moves have derailed the dreams of the opposition bloc’s ambition of putting up a strong and united fight against the BJP in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in two big states, which send a combined 88 members to Parliament.

While party General Secretary Tawde is credited for getting Nitish Kumar back to the NDA camp, Fadnavis successfully engineered a split in Sharad Pawar’s NCP by taking Ajit Pawar on board in the Eknath Shinde-BJP led Maharashtra government in June 2023.

Amit Shah and Devendra Fadnavis in 2022. Pic/X; (right) An undated picture of Nitish Kumar and Tejashwi Yadav. Pic/XAmit Shah and Devendra Fadnavis in 2022. Pic/X; (right) An undated picture of Nitish Kumar and Tejashwi Yadav. Pic/X

Party insiders tell mid-day both splits were overseen by Home Minister Amit Shah and assigned to the two Maharashtra leaders for execution.
Mission 400

For this year’s general election, the BJP has set a target of ‘Ab Ki Baar 400 paar’ (400 seats in the 543-member House).

By mid-2023, the opposition parties had come together under the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA). The bloc’s aim was to avoid a split of regional party votes and put up a unified front against the BJP.

Vinod TawdeVinod Tawde

This alliance, in its mere idea, threatened BJP’s Mission 400 target, especially after Kumar dumped the BJP last year and joined INDIA’s Rashtriya Janata Dal to form government in Bihar.

The Ram Temple inauguration gave the BJP the confidence of doing well in Uttar Pradesh’s 80 seats, things were not looking good in Maharashtra (48 seats) and Bihar (40 seats).

BJP vs United Opposition

While Kumar’s Janata Dal-United, Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress united in Bihar, closer home saw the coming together of Sharad Pawar’s NCP, Uddhav’s faction of the Shiv Sena and the Congress.

A senior BJP functionary, speaking to mid-day on condition of anonymity, admitted as much: “The aim of 400 seats was indeed good to boost the morale of the cadre. But, it looked increasingly difficult, especially after the formation of INDIA. A straight fight between BJP and INDIA candidates would have certainly made things difficult for us in many constituencies. The only advantage we had was that the INDIA bloc has no PM candidate to match Modiji.”

Veterans go to work

Nonetheless, the BJP was not going to be passive at this point. Tawde and Fadnavis, two veterans from Maharashtra were put to work, and have now decidedly turned the tables on the INDIA bloc by weakening the grand alliance in Maharashtra and Bihar.

Tawde was sent to work in Bihar in 2022. Within just a year, Kumar had dumped the BJP and joined hands with the RJD. The former Maharashtra minister had to start working towards getting Kumar back in the NDA camp. 

Capitalising on fissions

As a damage-control exercise and making the BJP self-reliant in the state, Tawde started work on balancing the party’s caste equation. The BJP started focusing on leaders with strong clout in areas dominated by Kurmi, Bumihar and Koeri communities.

As the party was trying to enhance its vote bank through caste equations, rumours emerged about Kumar being upset with the grand alliance when Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge was presented as a prime ministerial candidate.

The BJP sensed an opportunity to make a dent in the INDIA alliance and Tawde reached out to Kumar. Leaders who got in touch with Kumar explained to the JDU camp how the BJP had made inroads into their strongholds.

Aware that it will have to go with the tide and any move to swim against on-ground sentiments will land the party in trouble, the JDU decided to switch over to the NDA, say BJP insiders.

Mirrored in Maharashtra

A Mumbai-based political observer said even Fadnavis played a similar role in Maharashtra.

“Congress, Uddhav Thackeray’s Sena and Sharad Pawar’s NCP faction were all set to give a tough time to the Shinde-BJP alliance government in the upcoming elections. But, Fadnavis weakened the opposition in Maharashtra by getting Ajit Pawar to join the Shinde-BJP government. The weakening of opposition has not only helped the BJP clear the obstacles for the upcoming parliamentary polls, but has also strengthened Fadnavis and the party’s position for the next state election,” the observer opined.

Santosh Pradhan, political editor of Marathi daily Loksatta, said that when initially the opposition alliance was announced, it looked like while the BJP might have the upper hand in the run-up to 2024, it definitely was not going to be a cakewalk against an unified opposition.

But with key players like Trinamool Congress in West Bengal and Aam Aadmi Party in Punjab announcing they will go solo, the splits in NCP and Kumar walking out of the alliance have completely changed the equation.

“There are still a few months for the polls, so setting the right narrative, selection of candidates are some things that can still decide which way the voter will swing,” said Pradhan.

Move quick, play smart

Another political analyst, Abhay Deshpande, said the BJP leaders were smart to sense the threat (in around 50 to 70 seats) and quickly started working on damage control.

“In Karnataka, they tied up with Kumaraswamy (Janata Dal Secular), in Bihar and Maharashtra they succeeded in getting Kumar and Pawar Jr in their alliance camp,” he said. “In Bengal and Punjab, while the BJP may not have played a direct role, the decisions of the TMC and AAP leadership have indirectly benefited the party.”

Deshpande further stated that BJP seems to be favourite as INDIA bloc has not only failed to keep its flock together but even not able to give a face as its PM candidate that could give tough fight to Modi Sarkar. “BJP leaders are not leaving any stone unturned to achieve its mission of 400 plus seats. Even before polls are announced, the two BJP leaders from Maharashtra—Fadnavis and Tawde have already done the damage to the INDIA alliance and have set the tone for the BJP to make a comeback to power in Delhi for the third consecutive term.”

‘Barabari ka Muqabla’

Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) leader and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut, who played a key role in the formation of the INDIA bloc said people are trying to set a wrong narrative on the basis of recent developments. “In Bihar, Tejaswi Yadav and Congress will give a tough time to the BJP. Same is the situation in West Bengal. In Maharashtra, merely by engineering a split in the Shiv Sena and the NCP is not going to make a big difference. I still feel the game is not yet over. Kaante ki takkar hai. Muqabla Barabari ka hai. (There is tough competition. The competition is equal),” said Raut.

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