Mamata Banerjee's fishing expedition in Goa can draw lessons from Shiv Sena's experience in the state
If Shiv Sena could win nothing in Goa despite its cultural affinity to the state, I wonder how much Mamata will succeed with the help of spent forces, writes Sujata Anandan
Sometimes illnesses can come in very handy. His cervical spondylitis proved a political blessing to Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray in avoiding a meeting with his West Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee who came calling to Mumbai to seek a non-Congress alliance with other anti-BJP political parties.
I would have expected Mamata Banerjee to be rather more politically astute than she’s proved in this instance - or is she being misled by her political advisor Prashant Kishor, who appears to be driven by animosity towards the Congress which reportedly refused to humour him. Sometimes denials can drive people crazy – for a recent report claimed that Kishor was headed South to poach some Congressmen on behalf of the Trinamool Congress.
But why go that far? Let’s take the case of Luizinho Faleiro of Goa. Mamata Banerjee is obviously going into Goa as a spoiler, but Kishor could catch only this spent force for the Trinamool Congress. And what does Faleiro do? He promptly accepts a Rajya Sabha nomination from West Bengal but takes his oath in Konkani, not Bangla. So, where will he spend his MPLAD funds - in West Bengal or in Goa?
If the latter, would it not be an injustice to the people of West Bengal who have sent him to the Rajya Sabha? And if the former, Goa will cease to care for him even more. No matter how Faleiro resolves that dilemma, the situation will be the same with every spent force from every other state. The more they get elected from West Bengal, then take their oaths in their mother tongues and spend their development funds on their home states, the more Mamata Banerjee is likely to feel used rather than shrewd.
In Maharashtra, Uddhav Thackeray knows very well his government cannot survive without the Congress – the three Maha Vikas Aghadi partners have to stay together to keep the BJP out of power. Even if one of them breaks away, all three are doomed to oblivion. So, Thackeray shrewdly took refuge behind his surgery and dispatched his son Aaditya and close confidant Sanjay Raut to meet her in his stead – respect given but nothing given away. For neither Aaditya nor Raut could have given her the commitment to break from the Congress for no valid reasons.
But what about Sharad Pawar who can take such a decision? The meeting with Mamata Banerjee showed why he is considered such a consummate player. He allowed her to have her say including to declare the UPA was over– without falling in with her or giving her any assurance. And the message swiftly went out to all partymen that they must assert in public that there can be no alliance without the Congress. Accordingly, chief NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik, who was in Pune for a wedding reception, reiterated that the alliance with the Congress stays and there was no question of any opposition unity without the Congress.
Mamata might have forgotten that Pawar too has nursed the ambition of being the prime minister and knows the numbers will not work out without the Congress being on board. Most regional leaders however draw their hope from the HD Deve Gowda experiment wherein he became prime minister with just 17 MPs but only Pawar remembers that government too was propped up by the Congress and fell the moment it pulled the plug. In any case, NCP has never been able to cross single digits in the Lok Sabha, with or without the Congress, and no regional party so far has been able to breach any other state in sufficient numbers to make a difference.
Years ago, the Shiv Sena, moving from the Marathi manoos to Hindutva did manage to win one Assembly seat in Uttar Pradesh (none in Parliament, though) at the height of the Ayodhya movement; but as it reinvents itself as a secular party now, that possibility is remote. It could never win in Gujarat or Goa despite substantial Marathi-speaking population’s in both these states; but perhaps they might win one or two in alliance with the Congress and NCP?
The NCP, for its part has won an occasional seat in Goa, with help from the Congress, but was always a spoiler in Gujarat. But now that Pawar has sworn vengeance against the BJP for incarcerating his acolyte Anil Deshmukh, things could change there too but only provided all three partners stay together.
If Shiv Sena could win nothing in Goa despite its cultural affinity to the state, I wonder how much Mamata will succeed with the help of spent forces. But who can blame her for shooting arrows in the dark in the hope that one of them might hit the bull’s eye?
(The writer is Consulting Editor, National Herald, Mumbai)