ET Analysis: The making of Maha Vikas Aghadi

NCP chieftain Sharad Pawar’s clinical tapping of political openings, Shiv Sena’s ‘pride and dare’ DNA and the ability of senior Congress leaders to convince party chief Sonia Gandhi to follow Indira Gandhi’s unconventional course of turning necess...

PTI
Uddhav Thackeray after paying tribute to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj during his visit to Thane Municipal Corporation on Thursday.
NEW DELHI: If breakup of the ‘Hindutva alliance’ after the Supreme Court order facilitating the construction of a Ram Temple in Ayodhya was ironic, it has found more than a match in the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress pact on the eve of the Babri Masjid demolition anniversary. The unravelling of realpolitik through two hallowed dates in the saffron political calendar is also a tale of compulsions which led to the trio’s bonding and unveiling of the ‘Maha Vikas Aghadi’ alliance in Mumbai on Friday. Their common minimum programme stresses on ‘adherence to the Indian Constitution’, convenient bywords for ‘secularism’, ‘regional pride’ and ‘harmonious and inclusive development’ which alliance partners could not incorporate in the CMP, given contradictions in their fundamental positions.

NCP chieftain Sharad Pawar’s clinical tapping of political openings, Shiv Sena’s ‘pride and dare’ DNA and the ability of senior Congress leaders to convince party chief Sonia Gandhi to follow Indira Gandhi’s unconventional course of turning necessity into opportunity were factors that facilitated the coming together of the three parties against BJP which had made unconcealed attempts to finish off all the three parties.

Shiv Sena was livid over efforts of the BJP governments at the Centre and state to ‘belittle’ it and reduce its political space in the previous tenure. When the BJP leadership ignored the Matoshree ‘high table’ and deputed ‘protocol-wise junior’ Devendra Fadnavis to negotiate and ‘mocked’ it for demanding rotational chief ministership this time, it added insult to Sena’s injury and steeled its determination to hit back.


The seething Sena looking for a strategic opening found a skilful partner in Pawar who faced a series of attacks from BJP such as multiple defections its engineered, its provocative slogan of ‘Mission 2024 Baramati’ and the Enforcement Directorate case just before the polls. It energised the veteran of many battles to upset BJP’s electoral calculations. Political commentators found BJP’s acts nothing short of a misadventure that no party or leader in Maharashtra had attempted. BJP’s invasion into Sena’s turf and personally targeting of Pawar and other NCP and Congress leaders broke the tradition of Maharashtra politics.

After the polls, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray refused to budge to BJP’s pressure and cajoling and publicly displayed his ties with Pawar, with Sanjay Raut acting as a skillful and committed gobetween. Their ties were cemented on mutual trust and necessity. For Congress, weaning away BJP’s oldest ally and getting the much-needed power perch in the financial capital are big gains. Academics who call the Congress-Sena tieup an ideological compromise may not be aware that Indira Gandhi mentored and used the Sena to fight ‘hyperactive’ Left trade unions in the textile sector in the 1960s. The history of Congress-Sena tango is quite long: Bal Thackeray supported the Emergency and tacitly helped in Congress’ 1980 fight back in Maharashtra. He also extended Sena backing to Congress presidential candidates Pratibha Patil and Pranab Mukherjee, breaking ranks with NDA. So, if Sonia Gandhi informed the CWC members on Thursday of the tango, by projecting it as a step towards ‘fighting the bigger enemy’, for Uddhav, the tieup meant an extension of the tactics his late father had with Sonia’s mother-in-law. As the Sena-NCP-Congress experiment try to give the most dramatic makeover to Maharashtra’s political landscape, its future steps and implications will be closely watched by the national audience.
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