Maharashtra: MVA proves sceptics wrong
The MVA government has till now overcome the odds and dire predictions to complete two years in office
Ideology is out. Power matters. Altruism is irrelevant. Skulduggery defines power. Institutions are enslaved. Blackmail undermines institutions. Purpose is outdated. Fear psychosis prevails. Ever since Narendra Modi came to power at the Centre, parameters of governance have changed.
The Maha Vikas Aghadi coalition emerged in an environment of distrust. The Bharatiya Janata Party had a working relationship with the Shiv Sena for more than three decades. It was superficially based on the notion of Hindutva. The definition of that Hindutva was mainly being “anti-Muslim”.
The Shiv Sena was NOT founded in 1966 on the question of Hindutva identity. But the SS-Jan Sangh-BJP alliance came to the forefront because both the parties were individually weak to confront the Congress.
But the social formation of the two parties was sharply different. The BJP was mainly a party of the urban, white collar, upper caste and the middle and upper classes. The Shiv Sena was an angry outburst of the unemployed among the working class, the lower middle-class youth who neither had good education nor had vocational skills. This class of youth saw no hope and no future prospects. They could be easily persuaded to join the ranks of militant activists or simple hooligans. The BJP mass base on the other hand remains among the stable middle class.
The angst among the Marathi community, primarily in Mumbai, was that they deserved recognition and respect in Maharashtra. This appealed to most Marathi speaking people, even in the middle class. This was because just six years earlier, the state of Maharashtra had been carved out.
Politically, the parties had no scope to grow. BJP thought of itself as a party of the “respectable” middle class and their perception of the Shiv Sena was that it was a party of the riff-raffs. Yet they came together to grab political power. BJP provided the “talent” and the Shiv Sena supplied the street fighters.
BJP always had a very elitist approach with a kind of superiority complex. The average Shiv Sainiks often felt humiliated by the BJP leadership’s contemptuous tone towards them. However, both needed each other. The Shiv Sena, on its part chose to stridently campaign for Hindutva and the BJP began to treat them condescendingly.
In 1995, the so called ‘Saffron Alliance’ came to power, not by winning majority seats but by arithmetical exigency. But then SS was the ‘Big Brother’ as it had more seats than the BJP. The elitist BJP found it unacceptable that despite being a “national” and “culturally superior” party, they had to work under the leadership of the riff-raff organisation.
The situation changed radically in 2014. The BJP won its own majority at the Centre and became a prominent force in Maharashtra. Now the BJP wanted its pound of flesh. They started neglecting, ignoring and even insulting the SS leadership. Balasaheb Thackreay had passed away in 2012. The Gujarati PM had nothing but scorn for the junior Thackeray.
Uddhav was, unlike Raj Thackeray, a mild personality. The Modi-led BJP thought they could ride roughshod over the Uddhav-led Sena. In Delhi as well as in Maharashtra, BJP gave no importance to the Sena. The Sena, and particularly Uddhav, both took the insult in their stride. BJP then tried to muscle out Sena, by offering them fewer seats, asserting that BJP was the “Big Brother” now.
The Sena could not counter because of its lower numbers. The hurt became unbearable when the then BJP president, and later the Union Home Minister, betrayed Uddhav by initially promising chief ministership and then backing off from the promise.
BJP and the Sena together had the strength of 161 (105+56). Uddhav realised that the BJP game was to gobble up regional parties like the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu, Akalis in Punjab, the YSR Congress in Andhra Pradesh, TRS in Telengana and so on. The Shiv Sena, the NCP led by Sharad Pawar and the Congress had nothing in common ideologically, organisationally or sociologically. Their ‘vote banks’ were different, their programmes were different, their leadership styles were different and yet all the three parties feared that the Modi-led BJP would eclipse them. But they had one thing in common: the compulsion to stop the Modi-Shah juggernaut. Maha Vikas Aghadi is therefore a product of political necessity.
Some experts have noted the somewhat hyperbolic similarity in the historic but unlikely alliance between Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt against Hitler. A hardcore communist, Stalin was hated by the “imperialist” Churchill and the dedicated Free Market leader Roosevelt. Yet, they came together in Yalta to defeat and destroy Hitler. The three parties that have come together as MVA also perceive the Modi phenomenon as an evil that must be defeated.
So far, Uddhav has led the ‘anachronistic’ front magnificently well. He is sober, does not exhibit grandiose political ambitions, has never claimed that he knows all the solutions, is ready to learn from leaders of other parties and from senior bureaucrats, from independent experts and even from the media.
He faced an extremely hostile political opponent committed to overthrow him by hook or crook, a very sceptical and unfriendly media and the politics of vendetta carried out through central agencies like the CBI, NIA, ED, NCB or Income Tax authorities; To top it all, the Home Minister and the PMO are taking an active interest in toppling his government. Even the pandemic was used to discredit and corner the Government. But Uddhav has not yet lost his cool.
Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thackeray have been a perfect cricketing pair fully backed by Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. Indeed, Sanjay Raut, the executive editor of the SS mouthpiece daily Saamana, has become an important link between them and the Sena. The suspicious and sceptical bureaucracy and the media as well as anxious people have come to accept Uddhav Thackeray as the Chief Minister of the ruling coalition. Will it last and for how long? The central government’s ongoing games against the MVA government can take unexpected turns.
It is clear by now that BJP has lost ground in Maharashtra. Unless the PMO and the Home Ministry are able to divide and split the coalition partners, destabilisation of the government is not imminent. Uddhav’s businesslike style, Pawar’s political acumen and Rahul Gandhi’s flexibility have kept them together.
But in politics, as they say, you never can tell when equations and relationships change.
(The writer is Member of the Rajya Sabha. Views are personal)
(This article was first published in National Herald on Sunday)