News APP

NewsApp (Free)

Read news as it happens
Download NewsApp

Available on  gplay  » News » Why Mo-Sha Want To Placate Ajit-Shinde

Why Mo-Sha Want To Placate Ajit-Shinde

June 17, 2024 11:18 IST
Get Rediff News in your Inbox:

The coming weeks are sure to have a lot of drama unfolding in Maharashtra, predicts N Sathiya Moorthy.

IMAGE: Narendra D Modi being felicitated by Eknath Shinde, Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar during an election rally in Mumbai, May 17, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

It may be speculative and not so speculative.

Reports of churning within Ajit Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party and call for the reunion of the two Shiv Sena factions in Maharashtra have the potential to shake the Modi 3.0 dispensation at the Centre earlier than critics expect and backers anxiously anticipate.

The urgency in the matter owes, no, not to the denial of a Cabinet berth for the NCP, which won only a solo seat in the Lok Sabha poll and the also the denial of a Cabinet berth to Eknath Shinde's Shiv Sena faction, which won seven seats.

They draw a parallel to the Janata Dal-Secular partner in the National Democratic Aliance in neighbouring Karnataka, where the party with only two seats has been given a Cabinet berth at the Centre.

That JD-S nominee and party President H D Kumaraswamy is a former chief minister of a state (on more than one occasion) does not matter to the Shinde Shiv Sena.

If that is the argument, the Ajit Pawar NCP points out, how its prospective nominee, Praful Patel, though being a Rajya Sabha member, was a long-serving Cabinet minister under then prime minister Manmohan Singh's UPA I and II.

That Praful Patel's problems with the Enforcement Directorate during the two Modi stints at the Centre owed to his innings under the UPA is another matter.

Yes, this is all still speculative at the moment.

If they all decide to live happily hereafter, the BJP, Shinde Sena and Ajit Pawar NCP all may dismiss all current talk of cross-over and/or re-union(s) as figments of media imagination.

Some, possibly from the BJP, may still use the choicest epithets to describe 'Lutyens' Delhi'.

That could provide them with some much-desired diversion from all talks of 'godi media', or 'lapdog media' that they have been tired of reading through the past three or four months.

Maharashtra has the second highest number of 48 Lok Sabha seats, below Uttar Pradesh with 80.

The INDIA bloc won 30 of them with the Congress -- yes, the Congress -- coming on the top of the table with 13 seats.

Other INDIA partners -- the Uddhav Thackeray Shiv Sena won nine and the Sharad Pawar NCP eight.

In the rival camp, the BJP could manage only nine, followed by the Shinde Sena, with seven, and the Ajit Pawar NCP, just one -- all of it adding up to only 17. There is also an Independent who has since aligned with the Congress.

It is not about what the rival combines have in Maharashtra, but it is about what it could become if there is a total cross-over from the NDA to the INDIA bloc, leaving the BJP out of the reckoning.

It could well mean that the Uddhav Sena figure could go up to 16 and the Sharad Pawar NCP to nine.

The INDIA bloc total could then go up to 38.

Of course, no one is talking anything about cross-over from parliamentary groups or the impact of a possible re-merger of the two Shiv Senas and the two NCP factions on individual parliamentary groups.

It would have remained so had it possibly not been for the denial of Cabinet berths to the BJP's two Maharashtra allies.

By doing it, it is the BJP that might have triggered speculation in the matter.

It is equally likely that the Mo-Sha duo had smelt what is in the air and did not want to be embarrassed more than acceptable.

They may not be able to stop the cross-over and/or total reunion.

But they can at least minimise the impact of headlines if the two parties are given Cabinet berths and those Cabinet ministers were to quit, as per their party orders.

IMAGE: Nationalist Congress Party Chief Ajit Pawar's wife Sunetra Pawar files her nomination for the Rajya Sabha by-elections IN Mumbai, June 13, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

At the end of the day, it is about the Maharashtra assembly polls that are due in a few months.

If the so-called 'sympathy wave' for Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thackeray, triggered by the BJP Centre splicing their respective parties, holds until then, the existing NDA alliance may not be able to come back to power, post-poll.

Or, that is what the present figures indicate.

It is also the reason why there are already all kinds of talks, reports and rumours about NDA legislators, barring those of the BJP, wanting to rejoin the 'parent party', as they would happily call the other(s) if they want to return 'home' as prodigal sons.

If such is the case, they would want guarantees to contest their present seats.

Whether the parent party could accommodate them all in seat distribution, given the fact that a new set of office-bearers down the line had proved their worth in the Lok Sabha polls, is a million-dollar question.

Then, of course, there will be specifics where long-serving Sharad Pawar loyalists from grassroots level upwards may not want the party to take back Ajit Pawar, and may be a few others.

The same applies to Shinde if his MLAs were to go over to the Uddhav Sena.

IMAGE: Eknath Shinde with Ajit Pawar, Devendra Fadnavis, and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray at an election rally at Shivaji Park, Mumbai, May 17, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

It is still only one side of the story.

Already, there is educated speculation -- or, motivated rumours - that the Uddhav Sena and Sharad Pawar NCP want to snap ties with the Congress in the assembly elections.

Again, no senior leader from any of the stake-holder parties has spoken.

Obviously, interested parties, including those that hope for a re-merger to accommodate them in the assembly seat allocation, too, may be at work.

Already, some state BJP leaders are openly praising Uddhav Thackeray and have also openly wooing him by claiming that his Congress and Ajit Pawar NCP allies had benefited from him more than his own party.

If it is an indication that the BJP wanted to patch up with Uddhav ahead of the assembly polls, party leaders now wooing him should ask themselves as to who caused the break-up in the first place.

For those not in the know, dating back to the Vajpayee-Advani era, when the BJP was in power at the Centre, the party was double-timing the Sena and the united NCP ahead and even after the Lok Sabha and assembly polls.

Once when NCP members of the assembly reportedly were opposed to the party doing business with the BJP as a ruling ally in the state and Shiv Sena boss Bal Thackeray had been hurt enough, L K Advani as Union home minister rushed to Mumbai to cajole the other.

The Telugu Desam Party's N Chandrababu Naidu and the Janata Dal-United's Nitish Kumar, not to leave out the JD-S's H D Deve Gowda, have all been around for a longer time in national politics than the Mo-Sha duo, and would remember the past.

That the BJP has a history of being an 'unreliable alliance partner/leader' than others may be able to recall.

This is especially so after the Congress era under the eminently forgettable Sitaram Kesri's party presidency, which withdrew support for the two non-Congress, anti-BJP United Front governments of prime ministers Deve Gowda and I K Gujral in the mid-nineties.

IMAGE: Eknath Shinde, Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar at the inauguration of the second phase of the Coastal Road in Mumbai, June 10, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

In the normal course, Uddhav should have no problem continuing with the victorious alliance rather than go back to the BJP-NDA.

It is the same for Sharad Pawar and the Congress. The coming weeks are sure to have a lot of drama unfolding in Maharashtra.

Time is sort of running out for the Mo-Sha duo, and they seem to be aware of it, too.

They told the Ajit Pawar NCP to wait for a week or so for their demand for a Cabinet berth to be considered and decided upon.

The same may (have to) apply to Shinde Sena's demand for an upgrade.

After all, it would be bad publicity for the NDA and Narendra D Modi's macho-man image from the past decade and more (including his years as Gujarat CM) if the perceived Maharashtra scenario is allowed to develop.

More importantly, such a turn, even if an isolated development, if at all, could strengthen the bargaining power of the TDP and JD-U allies, even without their working for it!

N Sathiya Moorthy, veteran journalist and author, is a Chennai-based policy analyst and political commentator.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/

Get Rediff News in your Inbox: