The learning curve ahead for the Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance

The Maha Vikas Aghadi coalition between the Shiv Sena, NCP and the Congress is a learning experience for a future politics of reconciliation and hope.  

 |  5-minute read |   01-12-2019
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O Maharashtra, what have they done to you!

Mumbai, the city of power and its glory, of glitter and dreams, of hustle and bustle, of love and self-generated hate, of envy and always hope.

The metropolitan cities of Calcutta, Chennai and Delhi elude the BJP. It flounders in Hyderabad and Bengaluru. Losing the battle for power in Mumbai and Maharashtra has stunted its shrinking ambitions. In the Maharashtra episode, the BJP has massacred democracy, misused the governor’s office and trashed decency in government formation.

Raj Bhawan’s role

After its huge victory in the general elections — founded on muscular nationalism, divisive religious sentiment, disguised by appeals to trillion dollar ‘vikas’ — the BJP felt its conquest of India was complete, to sport absolute power, absolutely. Further, annihilations used money, muscle, abusing power and deceit, Karnataka, Kashmir, media control, intimidation of activists, episodes of lynching, criminalising triple talaq, thwarting full parliamentary process and sounding drums of war.

The hard reality is that the BJP has around 1,500 MLAs out of 4,000-odd MLAs in all the states. It rules the major states of Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh. Tested by elections in Karnataka and Maharashtra, Haryana showed loss of support and shine. The Supreme Court exposed the party’s corruption of democracy in Karnataka. Maharashtra is crucial to its all India future. In most of the small states and Bihar, it neither reigns nor rules.

main_thackeray-and-p_120119121347.jpgThe Congress-NCP combine cannot project itself as anti-Hindu, nor can the Shiv Sena deny the claims of minorities and other faiths. (Photo: Reuters)

It does not matter if there was a dispute over power sharing with the Shiv Sena. Since people voted for the alliance, the BJP should have even given Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray the entire five years as CM to save the coalition. But the BJP was prepared to destroy its own alliance because it wanted the ‘Kingdom of Maharashtra’, the third largest and richest state of the Union and to exclusively control power. It had three options: (a) inducing defections (b) blame others for new elections (c) use the governor’s office to play out the time game to force the Sena to return or destroy the Congress-NCP combine if it attempted to gain power by abusing the Raj Bhawan’s power.

The tale of the unexpected happened: The Shiv Sena-Congress-NCP combine were all set to claim power, generously supporting Uddhav as CM for five years. The BJP called this alliance ‘unholy’. Dirty tricks were used to break the NCP which failed. The Maharashtra governor did an unearthly early switch for BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis to be sworn into power. Who will believe that this overnight coup was because the governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari gets up early morning as most of India does? I have no doubt that Koshyari (who behaved with RSS hoshiyari), violated his oath and should be impeached and, in any event, dishonourably discharged from office.

Issues ahead

Although this seems like an unlikely and even unholy alliance, the BJP drove the MLAs to it under threat of blaming others for precipitating another election. But it didn’t work except for exposing the BJP. Let us move forward to the problems ahead.

The first problem is the sharing of spoils. Mumbai, a city of immense municipal problems, is linked with the ministry of urban development. The Shiv Sena wants to show Mumbai what its minister will do for all of it and other cities. The next important ministries are home (to control the police and ‘crime’), finance, personnel, agriculture and others. Many coalitions have floundered over distribution of portfolios not just for power and prestige, but also so that coalition partners can show off the contributory successes of their ministers. This could lead to a path of self-destruction. At the Centre, the BJP has managed to hold on to every important office. The second concern is vulnerability to defections because the BJP’s dirty tactics are not going to stop. Its score card on this criminality (inducement for gain to yourself or others is criminal) is high. Not being in power, its present inducements will be money, threats and future enticement of not just ministerships, but a plethora of other lucrative positions of power.

Balancing opposites

Third, is the issue of diametrically opposite ideologies. The Shiv Sena clearly asserts uncompromising, tough and angry Hinduism. The Congress-NCP believe in liberal secularism and are often accused of playing the minority card. The BJP laughs with glee, certain of impending disaster and future possibilities of undermining the Shiv Sena’s base by depicting them as traitors to the Hindu cause. The Common Minimum Programme is a first step to counter this, by including secularism and socialism (as welfare).

Pessimistic forebodings suggest possible breakdown. It is no comfort that a day is a long time in politics. We are concerned with days not a day. With Ayodhya out of the way, one thorn stands extracted. The Congress-NCP combine cannot project itself as anti-Hindu or in favour of rationalist, anti-religious secularism like the French laïcité. Nor can the Shiv Sena deny the claims of minorities and other faiths of which Mumbai and Maharashtra are human eco-systems. It must also rethink its unwelcoming policy against migrants. The Sena cannot pursue policies to divide one of India’s greatest states. This coalition is a learning experience for a future politics of reconciliation and hope.

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

Also read: Forever in shadows, can Uddhav Thackeray ever be his own man?

Writer

Rajeev Dhavan Rajeev Dhavan

Supreme Court lawyer.

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