The Bharatiya Janata Party is facing a problem of plenty in Maharashtra. But there is a reason why it’s called the problem of plenty – it’s still a problem.
And Sharad Pawar, who it is believed was the person who incited the BJP to go it alone in the state, has thrown a googly by offering outside support to the BJP to form a government.
Meanwhile, BJP and its old ally Shiv Sena are reported to be in consultations to explore the possibility of forming a coalition government.
THE NCP OPTION
The key advantage to the NCP option should be clear to anyone and everyone – they are not demanding anything, at least openly. They don’t want the deputy chief minister post, no cabinet posts.. in fact, no posts at all.
They just want a ‘stable’ government for Maharashtra. At least that is what they say.
The cons of the NCP option are not apparent to the naive. First of all, let’s explore why Pawar offered unsolicited support to the BJP in the first place. There are two reasons:
First, he wants to checkmate Shiv Sena and destroy it.
By offering support even though BJP did not even ask for it, Pawar is aiming to kill off the Shiv Sena, and this is his best chance. Shiv Sena is at the weakest right now. It has lost Bal Thackeray and has just proven to itself and the world that it misread the mood of the people.
It gambled that breaking up its alliance with the BJP would hurt both BJP and itself equally, and lost. The breakup of the alliance did not hurt the BJP as much as the Shiv Sena thought, while it did hurt the Shiv Sena perhaps more than it had expected.
Shiv Sena is on a weak wicket and Pawar knows that the only way the party can bounce back is if it comes back into the government as a partner of the BJP. Pawar wants NCP to be the ‘local’ party in Maharashtra, and knows that there cannot be more than one big regional party in the state.
Offering support to the BJP is intended to make sure Shiva Sena will get lost in the opposition wilderness as BJP corners the space for a right wing party and NCP corners the secular space.
The second reason is that the move will give the NCP some clout when it comes to corruption investigations against its leaders.
THE SHIV SENA OPTION
Shiv Sena is BJP’s ideological ally, and the two have a long history of working together. Bringing the party onboard will keep the regional-spirited voters inside the fold, and will be good for the continuation of the BJP-Shiv Sena government in Mumbai.
The cons are less well understood, and possibly less appreciated. Shiv Sena and the BJP ultimately vie for the same mindspace – the right wing. Though one talks the language of Marathi Pride and the other Hindu Pride, ultimately they are competing for essentially the same mind-, and vote-, share.
In other words, the two fish from the same pond and one cannot catch more fish without hurting the other.
It is in the long-term interest of the BJP to ensure that it has no siblings that can emerge as a strong rival later.
In addition, Shiv Sena is unlikely to be a ‘sleeping partner’. It has already made noises that it wants the chief minister’s position by rotation. It will, meanwhile, want the deputy chief minister’s position too.
Thirdly, the seeds of mistrust have already been sown. Just as BJP sees Shiva Sena as an ideological brother-cum-competitor, the Shiv Sena knows too that BJP’s growth will come at the cost of its own prospects. So, even if they form an alliance for government, Shiva Sena’s interests would be in maintaining its identity, and not letting it be subsumed in the BJP’s halo. This kind of misgiving could make smooth functioning of the alliance difficult.
But can BJP rule without the Shiv Sena?
Instead of overtly taking NCP’s support, the BJP could simply stake claim to form the government, and form it, keeping the understanding with NCP unofficial. This, however, runs the risk of appearing hypocritical, as the NCP was termed ‘Naturally Corrupt Party’ by none other than Narendra Modi.
Tell us what you think below.