Poles apart: On Congress-NCP-Shiv Sena alliance


The incongruity of the Maharashtra alliance can’t be overcome by a common programme

Politics makes strange bedfellows, but the emergent Congress-Nationalist Congress Party-Shiv Sena alliance in Maharashtra pushes the boundaries of this truism. The Sena will lead the alliance for a full five-year term, if it survives that is, according to the understanding among the partners who will also have a common minimum programme (CMP). The Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) pre-poll alliance had won the mandate, and their subsequent split is explained only by disagreements over power sharing. The new coalition is not a reflection of the popular will, and all three parties will have a price to pay for this transgression. Congress and the NCP will have to explain their compromise with the Sena to their voters. The Sena will have to explain its dilution of the Hindutva agenda, which could now be solely appropriated by the BJP. Destined to be the target of the BJP’s strong-arm tactics, the coalition’s stability remains an imponderable. The inappropriateness of this alliance is, however, plain and clear. The onus is on the leaders to prove the sceptics wrong on this count and extract some good out of it.

The leaders of the three parties may have found the opportunity to deny the BJP a second consecutive opportunity to rule the State very tempting. Some clashes within the BJP also could have contributed to the situation, as former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis was emerging as a force to reckon with in the Sangh Parivar universe. So, despite the ideological cohesion, the Hindutva bandwagon did not hold together due to personality clashes. The NCP-Congress-Sena coalition is a triumph of personal bondings and interests over principles, with the NCP chief Sharad Pawar acting as the glue between the Sena and the Congress. This is not to overlook the sociopolitical factor, the Maratha community closing ranks after it felt sidelined by the rise of the BJP. The exit of its oldest ally from its fold is a setback for the BJP despite the brave face that it puts up. Though there is no threat to the BJP or the Union government, the party’s overbearing attitude towards allies has limits as the episode shows — and that is the lesson for the BJP, now faced with murmurs of protest from other allies. The Congress perhaps faces the gravest loss of face, for its association with the Sena, which has risen out of crass linguistic and religious chauvinism. A CMP is only an initial, and modest step to shed the dishonourable baggage that the Sena carries to the tent. The series of divisive steps that are lined up by the BJP such as a nationwide NRC and the Citizenship Amendment bill will test the moral limits of this coalition. For a start, the Sena must make a public commitment to desist from divisive politics that made it powerful in the first instance. That is a tall order, but a price it must pay for power in this instance.

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Printable version | Dec 15, 2019 8:51:41 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/poles-apart-on-congress-ncp-shiv-sena-alliance/article30054138.ece

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