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Maharashtra: Giving casual leave to ideologies
News analysis

Maharashtra: Giving casual leave to ideologies

K. Gopalakrishnan

One notable feature of Indian political parties, including one leader, one family, regional ones, is that all of them are committed to lofty ideals and populist ideologies and policies, well drafted and copious; but when it comes to sharing power most of them with clashing ideologies and contradicting policies come together, forgetting the fiery campaign in which they had traded charges and abuses often lacking in literary hygiene as recent weeks have shown. Obviously the prime objective is power and not commitment to an ideology or implementing policies for the welfare of the people - not a healthy situation certainly in a civilized society.

The normal explanation presented to the public on such occasions is that these parties have decided to come together in spite of ideological differences to provide a stable government and to avoid another highly expensive election and burden on the state. To protect the interests of the state, the parties have worked out a Common Minimum Programme (CMP). In the process they try to justify the ideological compromises they make though by now the public has seen through these games once the post election manoeuvres begin, after failing to win the required number of seats in the House. People tolerate such conduct to avoid another election and also, by experience, they know that even if a party gets a majority in the House, the governance would not be very different.

A new situation has emerged after the Maharashtra election where an alliance comprising Bharatiya Janata Party and Shiv Sena, politically cohesive and committed to the Hindutva ideology, working together for a few decades, won the state assembly elections.  However, on the issue of who should be the next chief minister the alliance partners fell out.  They accused each other of misquoting and resorting to lies: a situation not normally seen. For if an alliance manages majority, they somehow or the other find a way to share power. Here the two took firm positions and in the process exchanged charges which crossed the border of decency. The net result has been that no government could be formed and the Governor recommended President’s rule keeping the assembly under animated suspension.

As the two alliance partners started pulling in different directions, the good old veteran of Maharashtra politics, Sharad Pawar, took his favourite position on the fence to have a ringside view of the fight casting sympathetic glances to Shiv Sena.  A shrewd observer of political moves since 1978, when he formed the Peoples Democratic Front, leaving the Congress and joining hands with the Janata Party, Pawar could judge in the beginning that parting of ways between the BJP and SS cannot be stopped as the interests of the two parties and ambitions of their leaders have reached a point of no return. Congress President Sonia Gandhi was informed about the scenario by Pawar, though the two strictly maintained in public that they have been given the role to sit in the opposition by the electorate.

As the situation worsened and an NDA government became difficult, parleys began between the leaders of NCP, Shiv Sena and the Congress, one time sworn enemies of each other. Later the NCP and the Congress chose to work together for political survival as a SS-BJP combine appeared a politically formidable entity as the 2019 state assembly election got nearer. In the campaign it was a no holds barred affair. Though it was a fight between NDA and UPA, there were numerous occasions when Shiv Sena leaders took on the NCP and INC veterans hurting them personally in the campaign. Above all the ideological differences between the SS and NCP-INC are of a longstanding nature.

But a few sittings with Pawar, a Chanakya in his own right, everyone could see the probability of power. In fact, imposition of President’s rule speeded up the process and to Shiv Sena it became clear that their fate is sealed and alliance between it and the BJP has ended. Some statements by RSS leaders and BJP President, Amit Shah left no one in doubt that the strong Saffron Alliance between the two strong Hindutva forces has ended.

The normal drama has now begun. The first scene is the MCP which has been more or less finalized, though there is still scope to add a few sentences or paragraphs or delete some references to satisfy all. In the process the Congress-NCP-SS have all given casual leave to their ideologies. Yes, at the moment it is casual leave as it is not clear how many days it will last. Ideological cohesion and the problem of distribution of portfolios apart, one cannot dismiss the tremendous mischief potential of BJP bosses. If this alliance lasts a few months, they may give a few months leave to ideologies. If it lasts longer, it may even be medical leave of a longer duration. Attractions and advantages of power as well as the compulsions to stick together for survival may make them carry on for a longer period.  All these only show that they may have to give leave to their ideologies and push political morality to the back burner for the sake of power and show how fragile ideologies have become today.

At the same time, one cannot fail to mention that the BJP could have been magnanimous and accommodated the demands of SS. Today the BJP is a party which wields enormous power throughout the country and sharing chief ministership for half a term would not have mattered much. At a time when some partners in Bihar and Jharkhand are showing signs of dissent, keeping an old political partner happy would have been advisable, particularly when it went out of the way to accommodate Dhushyant Chautala in Haryana. However to be fair, it is not clear why the politically shrewd Shah, known for accommodating alliance constituents going out of the way, decided to take such a strong step.

Be that as it may, what is disturbing is that in India even winning comfortably by an alliance does not ensure political stability. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will have to think twice before pursuing his one country, one election policy, when winning an election does not ensure ruling for a full term. The root cause is the weakening of the ideology and emergence of power at any cost getting stronger in the minds of leaders. Chances are that we may have to witness sanctioning leave to ideologies by political parties for some more time.  It all starts with giving casual leave to ideologies, in the first instance.