Eye on Maharashtra: Friends and foes making a meal of BJP

In the ‘Game of Thrones’ in the state, BJP appears to be sinking deeper into the quick sand

Pankaja Munde; (right) Harshwardhan Patil (Left)
Pankaja Munde; (right) Harshwardhan Patil (Left)

Sujata Anandan

The Bharatiya Janata Party seems to have jumped off the deep end, right into the crocodile’s jaws with regard to the misuse of central agencies against various people. Maharashtra minister Nawab Malik’s systematic peeling off of the layers from Narcotics Control Bureau chief Sameer Wankhede’s multiple posturings appears only to be just the tip of the iceberg. But I tend to think Wankhede is only collateral damage in this game of thrones between the ruling dispensation and the opposition, particularly Sharad Pawar of the Nationalist Congress Party.

The Maratha warlord seems to have made up his mind that this is the right time to take the BJP apart and, accordingly, the party is inundated under subtle but multi-pronged attacks from friends and foes alike.

Not many observers took note of a statement, a rather facetious one in fact, from former Maharashtra minister Harshwardhan Patil who has had a love-hate relationship going with the Pawar clan for years.

Patil realised late in life that you cannot live in the same waters as a crocodile and hope to survive by taking on that amphibious predator. I mention the word amphibian because those creatures are terrestrial, fossorial, arboreal and aquatic all in one piece of creation and, in the human context, Sharad Pawar is just that kind of political creature. He can adapt to any political formation without losing any of his essence and Patil really stood no chance against the man.

In 1999, he did take on Pawar’s candidate in the Indapur assembly segment of Pawar’s Baramati Lok Sabha constituency and emerged victorious. He ended up as a minister in the first Shiv Sena-BJP government in Maharashtra that year and had a comfortable homecoming in 1999 when Pawar split the Congress to form the NCP. But then the NCP allied with the Congress in 2004 and it was a hard time for all the fish swimming in Pawar’s end of the river.

Pawar finally took advantage during a temporary break in the Congress-NCP alliance to crush the rival Patil family in his back pond and when the two parties came together in 2019 again, he refused to return his seat to Patil. Whereupon Patil, once projected as a potential Congress chief minister, did what every Congress and NCP man was doing then – joined the BJP which seemed to be on a winning streak. It was a miracle that this fourtime minister lost. On the BJP ticket. He failed to vanquish the crocodile who had seemed on his last legs at the time and was back fighting at the same end of the river again.

In this game of thrones now no one is certain who resides in which corner. For Patil now seems to be heading back into Pawar’s arms by knocking his current party for a six. “I joined the BJP because I can sleep easy at nights, no fear of any inquiries or raids on me,” he said last week. That is not something the BJP would like one of their own to say. But is Patil really their own or is he preparing to swim back to Pawar’s corner again?

Pankaja Munde, however, should be one of their own. The daughter of former deputy chief minister Gopinath Munde of the BJP and herself a minister in the previous Fadnavis cabinet, she had a word of censure for her party leaders – you are wasting too much time attempting to topple the Maha Vikas Aghadi government and paying too little attention to the grassroots.

Now Pankaja too was gobbled up by the crocodile in her pond - her own cousin Dhananjay Munde defeated her on a NCP ticket and there is no way she çan get back her constituency without making a compromise.

In any case both Patil and Pankaja are of no use to the BJP if they cannot be winners. But the party nonetheless did not expect them to embarrass its leaders. Predictably, in a seemingly co-ordinated move, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut, a couple of whose party leaders are under investigation, pounced on Patil’s statement and quipped, “That single utterance said everything about the BJP - all criminals may rest easy within the BJP and it was a convenient tool against political rivals they could not defeat at the grassroots.”

The attempt seems to be to malign all the players involved, including officials like Wankhede, to such an extent that, whatever the outcome of the cases, neither the BJP nor the agencies are left credible any longer.

Nor are people like Patil. While Pankaja has stuck to her guns, Patil has retracted -- “I joined the BJP only because I was denied a ticket,” he said, compounding the problem with the BJP. Now the crocodile does not need to eat him up any longer, he has done a very good job of eating up his future himself.

And perhaps even the BJP in Maharashtra will have an uphill task convincing people they had no motive in harassing Shah Rukh Khan and his son Aryan simply because their name is Khan.

(Sujata Anandan is Consulting Editor, National Herald, Mumbai

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