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Alliances: Living beyond expiry date

  By Vijay Darda | 22-09-2014

Quite in sync with the coalition era, we are accustomed to alliances and grand alliances in our state politics, and have never dreamt of an era of a single party rule, so we cling to the belief that whatever be the internal and external tensions these arrangements would survive them all. Thus, when news reports regarding their imminent break-up dominate the headlines, the usual political response is that all the dust would settle in good time, and the alliances would remain intact. After all, there is no alternative.

Now, the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance has been there for decades, and the other partners have joined in recently to lend some amount of grandeur to it (though apart from the number of parties, going up there is hardly anything grand about such a combine), and on the other hand the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party alliance too has survived three terms in power. On balance, the experience has been productive for all the parties involved, as they have maximised their individual gains. Hence, the consensus that there is no alternative to these alliances. But let us not delude ourselves into believing the ideology, commitment or issues have anything to do in these alliances. It is a pure and simple power game.

But now we are facing a different sort of political situation. Firstly, the concept that we are permanently in a coalition era has gone and we have a single party rule at the Centre. But even before this development took place a few months ago, we had witnessed that in state after state, people were giving a clear and strong mandate in favour of one party — Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal, Jayalalithaa in Tamil Nadu, Naveen Patnaik in Odisha, Vasundhararaje in Rajasthan, Shivraj Singh Chauhan in Madhya Pradesh, Raman Singh in Chhattisgarh, Akhilesh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh and Anandiben Patel in Gujarat — these are all instances of leaders from one party cutting across the political divide getting absolute majority from the people.

The overpowering message is simple. The people want the elected governments to deliver, and do not want the alibi of coalition compulsions to cover-up non-performance. The same theme was reinforced when baffling all political pundits, Narendra Modi scored such an emphatic victory in the Lok Sabha elections. The clever pre-election arguments that the BJP does not have the ground presence to get an absolute majority were simply rejected as the party won 73 out of the 80 seats in the most populous state of Uttar Pradesh.

In this light, and given the tattered state of their relations, we can safely conclude that the two rival alliances in Maharashtra are now living beyond their expiry dates. Indeed, now is the time for all parties in the State to go on their own, and test their strengths. The state has had enough of political compromises made by political parties simply for the purpose of staying in power, while being at each other’s throat every day. The contradictions involved in the process now simply make the entire exercise completely untenable. 

It is not just the Prithviraj Chavan versus Ajit Pawar conflict. With both having not-so-good opinion about each other, discontent among people about this issue is quite conspicuous. Here, the incompetence of one and corruption of the other has become a point of discussion. Despite a barrage of allegations and counter-allegations, both continue to sail on the same boat. What message does it give to the society? 

That has not only debilitated governance, but the entire atmosphere hurts the public welfare in the state. The conflict brews at every stage, and decisions that must be taken with the single-minded purpose of benefiting the people get mired in various such nasty battles. There are loads of such cases with which the elected representatives are familiar and have often wrung their hands in despair.

In the present scenario, the BJP has made it loud and clear that it is not interested in forming a government in partnership with the Shiv Sena. This feeling has been voiced by national BJP president Amit Shah and each and every party leader in their public speeches. While claiming that the BJP would form the next government in Maharashtra, they do not even make a mention of Shiv Sena. Privately, they admit that the SS is a big nuisance with its “extortion as governance” model. It rides on this confidence, thanks to the Narendra Modi phenomenon, as it hopes to sell the dream that with like-minded governments in Delhi and Mumbai, the people would have the double development advantage. 

However, the truth is that the BJP sees no other option than to ally with Shiv Sena. On the one hand, the party issues ultimatum to SS, on the other, it goes down on its knees at Matoshri. The BJP gives secondary treatment to Sena MPs and when the latters’ claws are out, the BJP mellows its tone down. People know that the entire exercise is aimed at grabbing power and it is now fed up of this political gaming. The question on people’s mind is that if the allies in both Congress-NCP combine and the saffron alliance consider their alliance partners as obstacles, then why don’t they muster courage to go it alone in the polls? Now, the country is seeing a change in the mindset whereby one party would be accountable for public welfare. 

More so, with a high voltage blitz from Modi himself taking the message far and wide through a massive campaign the kind of which was unleashed last summer, the State leaders hardly see any obstacle in crossing the halfway mark on their own. For the BJP, it is difficult to visualise any other rival mounting even a half serious challenge, and so the success appears to be pre-ordained and even in the event of falling short by whatever margin, they do have other post-poll options open.

But this is just a scenario, and there are other counter arguments as well. The first and foremost one being the lack of an accepted strong leader from BJP in Maharashtra. Right now the party seems to be reluctant to go along with any one person, and this in itself could be a big handicap. The others if they go all alone can project well-known State leaders — Uddhav Thackeray, Ajit Pawar and of course Raj Thackeray. In that eventuality, it would be difficult to predict the outcome with any degree of certainty, but then the contest would become multi-cornered and would also be wide open.

The die would be cast within this week, and then the battlelines would be drawn. If the alliances remain intact, and the political compulsions prevail, then there would be an air of familiarity around the entire election campaign. Or else, the State would possibly enter into a new era, and perhaps make a strong well-defined choice. In that situation will the regions be tied down to their options – with Vidarbha, Western Maharashtra, Marathwada and the rest of the State going their separate ways or will there can be some kind of unifying element in the people’s verdict? Then the verdict will have a significance beyond simply giving us the numbers required for government formation. It will tell its own tale of the State’s political unity and the integration of all the regions.


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