It was to happen, and was just a matter of time.
It was a typical Sharad Pawar move, and after placing the cards initially, he transitioned to the next stage, stirring the elements of political opportunism to score the brownie points that were envisaged earlier.
Smelling the flavour, Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party had announced unconditional support to BJP to form the government in Maharashtra after the assembly poll results on October 19. Though BJP emerged as the largest party, it was 23 seats short of the majority mark in the 288-member assembly and the talks with Shivsena were not making much headway apart from the routine newsmaking noise.
He reiterated his support on November 10, two days before the trust vote on November 12. He said, “We have made our position clear. We want stability. We cannot have elections again. We will ensure that there will be no instability”.
The ‘tacit’ understanding continued to sing the melody on November 12 when BJP played on the tune Pawar had in mind while Congress and Shivsena created din on the ‘murder of democracy’ after BJP won the controversial trust vote by ‘voice vote’.
Though, even after this, the BJP-Shivsena exercise to find a way in out of the logjam continued. But nothing concrete came out and Shivsena, being the second largest party in the assembly with 63 seats, bagged the opposition leader position as the deadline to do so approached.
Now, the ball was perfectly in Sharad Pawar’s court waiting to be played further by his next stroke. And the next stroke came within a week.
Sharad Pawar, the Congress man, who ‘rebelled’, left (or was expelled from) the Congress party, and formed his own political outfit, Nationalist Congress Party, on the issue of Sonia Gandhi’s Italian origin, soon took a comfortably opportunist political U-turn, entered in an alliance with Congress and formed government in Maharashtra in 1999. It is to be seen in the context that Pawar shared good relation with Pramod Mahajan and BJP-Shivsena combine was expecting NCP to join them after the fractured Maharashtra mandate in 1999. Instead, Pawar, in a move that has become trademark of his party’s political opportunism now, decided to go with Congress.
Though the notes were discordant all along the duration of the compromised love affair, from 1999 to 2014 in Maharashtra and from 2004 to 2014 in Delhi, it continued somehow, as long as the power looked within the visible range.
But Pawar and his party kept on playing, tactfully, the discordant notes all along, keeping its senior and parent party on tenterhooks. The NCP-Congress differences and war of words made for countless headlines. Sharad Pawar even issued grave threats to pull back. Also, his party had no reservations in praising Narendra Modi at times and showing positive inclinations towards BJP.
That was the typical political flavour of the times in India, customized and practiced the Sharad Pawar way – playing the good Samaritan of Indian politics – while keeping his eye centrally glued to furthering interests of his family. The corruption allegations against the Pawar family have the potential to open a Pandora’s box that may prove the ultimate nemesis. That has to be handled and warded away. And that requires one to be in ‘some’ position.
When it was written all over that Congress, UPA and NCP-Congress were not going to come back in power, it was logical that Sharad Pawar break away demanding parity in the ticket distribution process or any other reason for that matter. One of the calculations would be that NCP could emerge out as the kingmaker in case of a hung assembly scenario as the BJP-Sena alliance was also broken.
Pawar played his cards. BJP joined the game as it helped the party on dealing with Shivsena on its own terms. On the surface, the party which Narendra Modi named ‘Naturally Corrupt Party’, was not to be an ally. The spectacle of the ‘voice vote’ was to avoid this embarrassment only. It did keep Shivsena in check but it also made NCP the only choice BJP had, to prove the majority of its minority government, to have the leased life for six months, before which the BJP government’s majority cannot be put to test again.
And that placed Sharad Pawar on top. And he remains there, as of now, as the political developments of the moment are.
Shivsena is the principal opposition and Devendra Fadnavis, who raised the irrigation scam issue with central allegations focused on NCP state leadership and who is openly pro-Vidarbha (a separate Vidarbha state from Maharashtra), is heading the minority government of BJP.
Until BJP seals a deal with Shivsena to form an alliance, Sharad Pawar will remain an imperative for Devendra Fadnavis, a position that BJP would like to get away from as soon as possible. But, going by the political equations now, nothing can be said on that front.
And with it, he played his next stroke today.
It was time to flex muscles after BJP acted visibly-politically-detached on NCP’s offer, sending out the message that it was rather NCP’s compulsion to offer support to BJP.
And it came as a direct warning. Playing the good Samaritan, he deliberated on the political developments that BJP and Shivsena were still not able to stitch an alliance, a must for political stability. He said, “If the BJP and Shiv Sena had joined together, there could have been stability. However, that did not happen. If the situation continues like this for the next six months, it will be time for fresh Assembly elections. We are not obliged to ensure stability of the government.”
Within a week, Mr. Pawar has travelled from – We will ensure that there will be no instability. – to – We are not obliged to ensure stability of the government.
So, the onus is now on BJP. NCP has played it part (and its card). It may be just a rhetoric but coming from Sharad Pawar makes in unpredictable. And the possible predictability that BJP may choose to break NCP in case talks with Shivsena break completely and fail finally would certainly be in Sharad Pawar’s mind when he issued the warning.
Let’s see how BJP reads and interprets this warning.
©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/