'Was an NDA meeting held to decide if the Shiv Sena has to be removed from the NDA?'
Prasanna D Zore reports.
Even as the Shiv Sena dilly-dallies over publicly acknowledging if it is part of the National Democratic Alliance or has quit the NDA, another important NDA constituent, the Janata Dal -United believes the Shiv Sena's action clearly indicates that it is not part of the NDA.
Senior JD-U leader and Rajya Sabha MP K C Tyagi, while expressing his disappointment over communication gaps within NDA constituents over sorting out ideological and organisational differences with other parties, asks, "For every practical purpose, they (the Shiv Sena) are opposing every stand taken by the NDA, so how can they be a part of NDA then?"
The Bharatiya Janata Party and Shiv Sena -- who have been in a political alliance in Maharashtra since 1989 -- are involved in an intense tussle over the formation of the next government in the state over the issues of rotation of the chief minister's post between the two parties for equal tenures.
The Shiv Sena is now engaged in negotiations with Sharad Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress to form the next government in Maharashtra.
"If you (Shiv Sena) demonstrate against the government (led by the BJP), walk out (of Parliament), engage in slogan-mongering, then what does it show? If your attitude is such, then why would the BJP extend a hand of friendship towards you?" the JD-U leader asks.
Tyagi is referring to the bickering that has erupted between the Shiv Sena and BJP after Sena MPs were allocated seats on the Opposition benches in Parliament by Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi.
Expressing his anger over the Sena MPs being made to sit on the Opposition benches Arvind Sawant, the Shiv Sena MP from Mumbai South -- who resigned as Union minister of heavy industries and public enterprises last week after his party decided to form a government in the state with the help of Congress and NCP -- says, "Our position has not changed. Our place (inside the Lok Sabha) was always on the boundary with the Opposition and nothing has changed. Only my position has moved from the first seat to a back seat; rest all are sitting where they were sitting before."
Referring to how the Shiv Sena has always been the main Opposition party in the state even when it shared power with the BJP between 2014 and 2019, Sawant says, "We believe in supporting the government or the Opposition on issues that benefit the people and nation. Politically we may have differences, but rashtrahit and janahit he nehmi aamchya (welfare of the nation and people will always be our) top priority."
Sawant is displeased over how the BJP is imposing its own views over other NDA constituents.
"Sanjay Raut saheb (the Shiv Sena's Rajya Sabha MP and the party's face in its ongoing tussle with the BJP) has made it clear that the NDA doesn't belong only to them (the BJP). Was an NDA meeting held to decide if the Shiv Sena has to be removed from the NDA? The NDA met on November 17, but no such issue was raised. They didn't even invite us for the NDA meet," Sawant adds.
Chandra Prakash Choudhary, the lone All Jharkhand Students Union MP from Giridih, Jharkhand, which is also an NDA member, tells Rediff.com that he is not aware of any decision taken during the NDA's November 17 meeting as he did not attend the meeting.
The AJSU is at loggerheads with the BJP over seat-sharing for the Jharkhand assembly election and has decided to contest against BJP candidates.
"Coordination committee (of the NDA) is a must," says Choudhary, "the Shiv Sena may not have left us if there were no communication gaps."
Asked if the Shiv Sena is still a part of the NDA, Sawant tactfully says, "We didn't say a word about it (quitting the NDA); it was their (BJP's) unilateral decision (to make us sit with the Opposition). No such decision (to remove the Shiv Sena from the NDA) has yet been passed by the NDA."
"Where is the transparency that you take so much credit for in your decisions? Why this dictatorial imposition?" Sawant asks. "We must also know how the other constituents of the NDA feel about such behaviour (of the BJP). Let the people know if the NDA constituents too are with their decision."
Reacting to Sawant's contention that only the NDA has the right to decide who should be part of it or otherwise and if the BJP is acting unilaterally on behalf of other NDA constituents, the JD-U's Tyagi is clear about how the NDA cookie is shaping up in the wake of the Shiv Sena's effort to form a government in Maharashtra.
"Such decisions (to remove any NDA constituent) are never taken in NDA meetings as to who will be made to sit on the Opposition benches and who will be on the side of the Treasury benches. A rule followed by Parliament and state assemblies is that seats are not allotted to any party unless a party demands (where it has to sit). The leader of the House has to be told to change the sitting arrangement and it happens then. The parliamentary affairs minister (Joshi) might have said so."
Tyagi, however, is categorical in his criticism of the BJP over lack of coordination among the constituents.
"As the biggest NDA constituent it is the BJP's responsibility; just like it happened during the prime ministership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee when we had a convener, a coordination committee where ideological and organisational differences were resolved within the NDA. This BJP (under Prime Minister Narendra Modi) must also do the same. All the NDA constituents want this to happen," Tyagi point out.
Asked if regular meetings of the NDA's coordination committee could have avoided the split between the BJP and Shiv Sena, Tyagi says, "These days there is no NDA meetings happening and there is no proper coordination either (among the NDA constituents)."
"What has happened between the Shiv Sena and BJP (over the issue of government formation in Maharashtra) is not known to anyone (any NDA constituent). If we have NDA meetings and such issues are discussed there, then contradictions can be ironed out and all such issues may get resolved through broad-based consultations and arguments. Now, in Jharkhand too everybody is contesting the elections separately."
Along with the AJSU, the Lok Janshakti Party led by its newly elected president Chirag Paswan too has decided to contest against the BJP in 50 assembly seats in Jharkhand.
Paswan, after the NDA meet on November 17, had also demanded the constitution of a coordination committee for the ruling alliance and a convener for the same.