Editorial

Changing the stripes: On Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress CMP

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Maharashtra has a strange mix of parties in power, but that need not derail governance

The Common Minimum Programme (CMP) announced by the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA), the new ruling coalition in Maharashtra of the Shiv Sena, the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), foregrounds development and pledges fidelity to secularism. Taking over as Chief Minister, Uddhav Thackeray’s primary challenge is not to live up to, but to undo and outgrow, the legacy of Bal Thackeray, his father, who founded the Sena 53 years ago. The late Thackeray was the fomenter of a chauvinistic politics that targeted religious and linguistic minority groups in Maharashtra. Mr. Thackeray’s statement as CM was unambiguous that “nothing would be allowed that makes the common man feel terrorised”. He also has a haunting history of words and deeds, but the pressures of the new alliance might make him adopt a more sober approach to governance. Parties and leaders evolve over time depending upon changed circumstances and new social realities. The burden of proof is on the Sena, but it is only fair that Mr. Thackeray be given a chance to remake the street politics of the party organisation. The Sena’s estranged ally in the Hindutva tent, the BJP, is licking its wounds and waiting in ambush. The Sena has a reputation to lose and a reputation to make. For Mr. Thackeray, who would not be remote controlling the government as his father did, being the CM would be more difficult than leading the party.

The CMP seeks to bridge the ideological and temperamental gulf between the Congress and the Sena by focusing on some pressing issues faced by the commoners, particularly farmers. Mr. Thackeray has promised to address the crisis in the agriculture sector in a comprehensive manner. Provisions to improve health care, education, tourism and a range of issues are also part of the CMP. The new government is likely to halt the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project whose financial viability is doubtful and ecological impact is significant. The MVA must focus on raising rural incomes and demands, which will have a positive effect on the economy in general. Regional pride and cultural assertion are not necessarily divisive. The announcement of a special development grant for Raigad, associated with the history of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and the promise of reservation of 80% of jobs to domiciles of the State indicate a thrust towards regionalism. As Congress president Sonia Gandhi said in her letter to the new CM, this unlikely alliance is the outcome of extraordinary circumstances. There is potential, however, for it to outgrow that status and aspire to become a new template for pro-people, non-sectarian politics and governance.

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2019 5:29:40 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/changing-the-stripes/article30118775.ece

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