Why BJP is finding it difficult to execute ‘Operation Lotus’ in Maharashtra

BJP’s stakes are high and it will try everything in the book and outside to cling to power.But in M’rashtra it finds itself at a turning point and the going much tougher than it may have bargained for

Why BJP is finding it difficult to execute ‘Operation Lotus’ in Maharashtra

Bhagyashree Pande

Power in Maharashtra is of utmost importance to the BJP. Mumbai being the nucleus of stock market players, cooperative banks, builders and developers, gold merchants, traders of every commodity besides industralists, BJP will not easily let go of the state and the financial capital of the country, as Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad himself unwittingly conceded in public.

Prasad of course was accusing the Shiv Sena, NCP and the Congress of trying to take control of the financial capital through the back door. But his anxiety reflected the anxiety in the BJP.

Amit Shah is a known stock market player and is believed to control the stocks and the property market. If BJP loses its power in the state then it loses its grip over the financial muscle of the country. With the economy fast sinking, and the government running out of funds, BJP clearly feels it cannot afford to lose control over the state. Losing control will also mean skeletons tumbling out and a question mark on future funding of the party.

It is, easy, therefore, to explain BJP’s desperation to cling to power in the state by hook or by crook. The stakes are simply too high. But what explains the decision of Ajit Pawar to go with BJP? He was certain to be the Deputy Chief Minister in the MVA government of Shiv Sena, NCP and the Congress as well. He would have had more clout as Dy CM in a MVA government than in a BJP government.

Moreover, he owes his political standing to his uncle, Sharad Pawar, who has been kind to him. Ajit Pawar had not been able to get even 10 of his loyalists the party ticket. And while he had his way in getting his son Parth a ticket for the Lok Sabha, the son lost because Pawar senior thought he was still too raw and needed to wait. In short, Ajit Pawar has no mass base of his own and without the family’s backing, would find it difficult to win. Indeed, even after taking oath as Dy CM with Fadnavis, he tweeted that he was with Sharad Pawar.

Ajit Pawar has in fact isolated himself by breaking ranks with the NCP. He may claim he continues to be the leader of the NCP Legislature Party but few, if any, NCP MLAs are likely to follow him.

Besides the future of Ajit Pawar, the future of the BJP also is at stake. The party had grown on its own after the death of Bal Thacckeray. Can it continue growing on its own or will the Shiv Sena grow at its expense ?

BJP has dismissed the 'We are 162' show of strength put up by the opposition alliance, stating that there was no headcount and the real test would be on the floor of the House.

But what would have made it jittery is the way the Shiv Sena and the NCP cadre got active following its overnight coup in the state. Sena workers got active in dragging errant MLA's back to the fold. The Shiv Sena workers went to the airport to bring back the rebels who were set to fly to Delhi. Similarly, the NCP Youth wing tracked down four missing MLA's after their families gave out details that they were holed up in a hotel in Haryana.

The worry now for the BJP central leadership is the reaction of the volatile Sena supporters if the trust vote goes against it and how to contain their anger against defectors, if any.

Operation Lotus was easier to execute in Karnataka or Goa but in Maharashtra, where Shiv Sena is still very strong in the cities, it will be difficult for BJP to survive anything that goes against the Grand alliance.

If Sharad Pawar defeats BJP's designs, he will be able to write a new chapter in national politics. The checkmating of BJP will give a new meaning to coalition politics in the nation of which Sharad Pawar will be the leader.

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