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Uncharted Waters The realignment in Maharashtra will have national implications for NDA

November 12, 2019 06:31 AM


Uncharted Waters
The realignment in Maharashtra will have national implications for NDA
Shiv Sena and BJP, after running together and coming up trumps in Maharashtra’s assembly elections – together their alliance raked in 161out of the state’s 288 seats – have effectively divorced. This amounts to a betrayal of their mandate, as logistical issues about the sharing of power should have been worked out beforehand instead of being left for after the elections. Be that as it may Indian politics – certainly not the world’s most principled – is well known for these non-linear turns that stump the electorate. Only recently the Jananayak Janata Party joined hands with BJP in Haryana after opposing it during electioneering. Things being what they are, Maharashtra nevertheless deserves a government.

Shiv Sena’s attempt to align with UPA members to form a government in Maharashtra represents a big breach in the NDA firmament, perhaps bigger than JD(U) building bridges with UPA in 2015. The manner in which Sena, NCP and Congress are today on talking terms is also a reflection of the dominance BJP achieved in Maharashtra over the past five years before falling short in the assembly elections. Often the Sena criticism of BJP policies since 2014 sounded no different from Congress, mitigating their so-called ideological differences. If Sena has decided to divorce BJP, it must now work with Congress-NCP.

For Congress-NCP, Sena’s overtures offer an opportunity to recover from the BJP onslaught on their leaders in farm cooperatives. Recovering lost ground in rural Maharashtra and rebuilding party coffers in a resource-rich state would be foremost in the minds of local Congress leaders. Questions on the Sena’s commitment to Hindutva would be a cause for worry for the Congress high command, but reports indicate that the newly elected Congress MLAs have no such qualms in allying with Sena. The solution would be for both sides to drop their ideological angularities and rely less on identity politics as a whole, while working on solutions to Maharashtra’s economic difficulties.

The scale of BJP’s victory in 2019 Lok Sabha elections seemed to herald a new phase of single party dominance. But the unflinching Sena defiance indicates that Delhi’s ability to control the trajectory of state-level politics has its limits. With Maratha strongman Sharad Pawar deftly fanning the BJP-Sena fires over the past fortnight and Karnataka headed for bypolls where JD(S) could again become kingmaker, regional parties may just be making a strong comeback

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