Hunting A Golden Deer?

Metaphors from classical literature at times explain tricky issues which elude the intelligentsia very often. The murky Indian politics confounds even the sharpest political observers, as has been shown by the developments in Maharashtra in the last few days.

It has been a complex cycle of alliances, intrigues, deceptions, breach of trust, collusion and power grabbing even without as much as a semblance of coalition.

The voters in Maharashtra gave a massive mandate for a government by the NDA (National Democratic Alliance) of BJP-Shiv. The BJP & the Sena alliance won 105+56 seats.

Their opponents were the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) of Congress Party which won merely 44 seats and the NCP (Nationalist Congress Party) of Sharad Pawar which won 54 seats. The Congress and the NCP won only 98 seats and stood no chance of forming the government.

However suddenly started demanding the post of the Chief Minister for its nominee from the BJP which had 105 against the SS getting just 56.  the demand of the Shiv Sena, a component of the NDA pre-poll alliance, to make its nominee the Chief Minister created a difficult situation most unanticipated by the NDA. It amounted to dishonouring the mandate of the people of Maharashtra to the NDA to form the government by the unreasonable demand and ambition of the Shiv Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray .

This surprising development gave a godsend opportunity to the NCP and the Congress to drive a wedge between the NDA partners BJP and the Shiv Sena.

The Shiv Sena approached the NCP and the Congress for support to form a government without the BJP while still continuing as an alliance partner. There can is no other instance of such kind of a fraud on the democratic process of electing a lawful government in India since the Constitution of India came into force. The Shiv Sena kept on demanding the CM’s post from the BJP, it’s NDA pre-poll alliance partner, and continued soliciting support of the opponents of the NDA (Congress and NCP) at the same time! If this is not a fraud on democracy, elections and the voters, what else is?

It was breach of trust and alliance ethics and political morality

What does a blind man ask other than sight in two eyes? The NCP and the Congress did not immediately trust the SS request since they were partners with the BJP for over 3 decades. Both parties and their leaders were seasoned politicians, who first ensured that the divide was unbridgeable but made no commitment as to support a SS nominee for the Chief Minister. Instead, Sharad Pawar of the NCP kept saying that the mandate was for the NDA, who should form the government.

This power play went on for long even after the BJP leader and former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis declined the Governor’s invite to form the government. So, for almost a month Maharashtra had no government in spite of a clear mandate to the BJP-SS alliance to form a stable government.

The people’s mandate was negated by the burning ambition of one man- Uddhav Thackeray.

It had only one parallel in democratic evolution in India-  Charan Singh’s ambition to become the Prime Minister of India, which negated the clear mandate of the people for the Janata Party to form a stable government. The Janata Party was formed in 1977 by various political parties opposed to the black Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi after the Allahabad High Court declared her election 1975.

Morarji Desai, a known freedom fighter and an honest politician without any blemish, became the Prime Minister. Charan Singh, who was the Home Minister, aspired to become the prime minister. Political rumblings incited and encouraged by the Congress Party, as now in Maharashtra, led to the collapse of the Janata Party government. Political manipulations installed Charan Singh as Prime Minister, but he could never face a vote of Confidence on the floor of the House. Emergency was the blackest deed of Indira Gandhi and Charan Singh and others with uncontrolled ambition negated the people’s mandate as has now been done by the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra.

Whether the congress Party will give Uddhav Thackeray the Charan Singh treatment/ Janata Party treatment is to be seen. But if it doesn’t do so, it would compromise it’s national and secular credentials (it would lose Maharashtra forever to the deadly combination of hostile forces like the NCP and the SS). What Charan Singh achieved was insignificant as compared to what the people and the nation lost by bringing back Indira Gandhi to power in 1980, whom he had sent to Tihar jail in Delhi while he was the Home Minister in the Morarji Desai government.

The actions of the Shiv Sena created an impasse in Maharashtra when no political party-BJP, SS, NCP- was able to form the government. It was necessary to break that impasse because it meant failure of the constitutional machinery in Maharashtra. Governance was immobilised like a patient etherized upon the table (T.S.Eliot’s line in “The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock).

It was at that critical juncture that Ajit Pawar, leader of the legislature party of the NCP, offered support of his party to the BJP to form the government to break the impasse and provide a stable government to reach immediate relief to the people of Maharashtra who were facing many problems, especially the farmers whose crops were destroyed by untimely and heavy rains. The BJP almost jumped at it. It is this decision that is being questioned and justifiably so.

But it is no sign of BJP’s hunger for power. On the contrary, they tactfully used the same political methods which the Congress and the NCP were using against them-deception. The BJP leadership knew well that Ajit Pawar belonged to the opposition camp which will never support it, especially when its leader Sharad Pawar was negotiating terms of support to the Shiv Sena for an alternate government. The  NCP or the Congress had not declared Uddhav Thackeray as their nominee for the post of Chief Minister. They also knew how corruption charges against Ajit Pawar were being pursued by the agencies. They simply seized upon the opportunity to show their opponents that they too could play politics, even if it proved costly. They could not do so with the Shiv Sena, whom they could not give an opportunity to complain. But the UPA or the NCP were a different proposition altogether. For the BJP Ajit Pawar, nephew of NCP chief Sharad Pawar and a former minister, was the proverbial golden deer. They simply used him and forced the opponents to hasten the bargaining to expose them for their greed for lucrative departments, humorously called the ATM departments, and also the Shiv Sena for unethical demand for Chief Minister (which was not for public interest but abuse of executive power) by compromising on every principle and policy of the Shiv Sena.

Only a naïve person would trust Ajit Pawar and 54 NCP MLAs supporting the BJP, just like he would believe an animal like a deer to be made of gold.

The dexterity with which the BJP moved un-nerved the Congress Party, which might have tried to bargain for the post of Chief Minister for its nominee, putting both Sharad Pawar and the Shiv Sena in a tense situation, because without Congress they would not have succeeded in forming the government with 56+54 MLAs only. Their failure would have made them a laughing stock in the whole country across all political parties and ruined their dreams forever. That was the reason the negotiations between the Congress, NCP & the Shiv Sena were not concluded even in 15 days. They hid behind a   subterfuge of non-finalization of the CMP (Common Minimum Programme). An untenable excuse as they already have more than one such CMP with similar rhetoric and issues e.g. minority or secularism etc., which only needed to be dusted.

Their love for secularism and minorities was exposed in the swearing in ceremony, which was a display of the saffron even though the CMP prominently included “secular” as their mojo and the 7 ministers sworn in had no minority candidate! The Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi or her son Rahul Gandhi or daughter Priyanka Gandhi did not attend the ceremony because they did not want to be photographed in the company of a saffron party like the Shiv Sena which had tried to convert to Congress brand of secular in lieu of the chief minister’s post.

The real reason was that Sharad Pawar wanted to establish his supremacy in Maharashtra over all other parties and the Congress was trying to establish its own supremacy for larger issues than Maharashtra. The Common Minimum Programme was just another hoax, The Maharashtra gamble would influence the standing of the two parties at the national level. It would determine the next election to the parliament and elections in other states in India like West Bengal, Jharkhand etc. The Congress is desperate to oust the NDA, especially prime minister Narendra Modi and capture power at the Centre. Its actions in Karnataka and Maharashtra are to that end.

The bargaining still goes on though Uddhav Thackeray of the Shiv Sena has taken oath on 28th November evening in Mumbai along with 2 ministers each from the SS, NCP and the Congress. The expansion of the cabinet will take place after hard negotiation on allocation of portfolios, which will take time and can expose the fault lines of the khichdi Sarkar/ potpourri of a government. The political ambitions, goals and thinking of the 3 constituents of this government are opposite and inimical to each other. The congress can ill afford to sustain a government where it plays a supporting role. It would like to be the decision maker while Shard Pawar has emerged as the sole authority to guide and decide the conduct of business of this government. He will weaken the Congress to such an extent that it leaves Maharashtra for him to rule. The Congress will not allow Pawar to gain such stature.

The BJP had faced such situations in the past both in the states and the centre. It should not be surprised at this ganging up. Rather it should devise methods to break this Chakravyuh deftly before it acquires enough strength to pose a serious challenge to its political survival. For long, the BJP will have to maintain its superior ethical standards. The Congress would like to make Prime Minister Narendra Modi another Dr. Man Mohan Singh to tar his image with scandals like 2G, CWG, Coalgate etc. In Ajit Pawar they saw an opportunity by referring to corruption cases against him and questioning the BJP’s ethical standards in TV debates and newspaper columns. It was not for more than 80 hours that they suddenly forgot about all the corruption charges against Ajit Pawar after he resigned as the Deputy Chief Minister in the Fadnavis government and returned home to the NCP and uncle Sharad Pawar!

The only redeeming feature in this government seems to be a clean image of Uddhav Thackeray. But who knows skeletons might start tumbling down as the Shiv Sena was ruling the BMC (Bombay Municipal Corporation).

It would have been a different matter had it been a coalition government. Unfortunately, it is a collusion government, whose means are as foul and questionable as its ends. But then, change is always welcome. May be something better comes out of this churning of political forces. For the moment I can only recall a couplet of the wise poet Abdul Rahim Khan-i-Khana:

Kaho Rahim kaise nibhe, ker-ber ko sang, ve dolat ras aapne, unke katat ang.

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