NOW THAT THE Maharashtra government formation is over, one mystery persists: What happened in that meeting between Sharad Pawar and Narendra Modi just a few days before the whole drama started? The reason touted by Pawar was that it was about farmers’ distress in Maharashtra but no one is buying that. A day earlier, he had also met Sonia Gandhi. And on the same day, he had meetings with top Congress leaders like Ahmed Patel, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Mallikarjun Kharge. They had been upset on coming to know that he had met the Prime Minister. Only the two know what transpired at the meeting. One NCP leader is claiming that Pawar in fact told Modi not to rely on Ajit Pawar if they were planning to poach on his party.
There has been no coordination committee of the National Democratic Alliance in the Modi regime. Such a committee was a key feature of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government in which other party leaders, like George Fernandes and Sharad Yadav, were convenors. But then the BJP did not have a majority of its own and needed the NDA. After the Maharashtra elections, BJP allies like Nitish Kumar, Chirag Paswan and Akali leaders are once again said to be suggesting the formation of a committee in which they could be consulted on strategy and decisions. BJP might not be ready to do that.
The formation of the trust that would construct the Ram temple is becoming an imperative given that the Supreme Court asked the Government to form it within three months. While different suggestions for its members, ranging from the Prime Minister to Union ministers to chief ministers, are doing the rounds, Modi apparently wants only non-politicians in the trust. That also means no BJP leaders can get into it. The maximum number would probably be from the Vishva Hindu Parishad and Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas people who were involved in the movement from the very beginning.
Man for All Parties
Political consultant Prashant Kishor is once again the talk of the capital. Presently an adviser to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, he is also associated with Shiv Sena and its leader Uddhav Thackeray who has now come to power in Maharashtra. He was earlier with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar who made him party vice president, a post that he still holds. He is also adviser to Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Jaganmohan Reddy who came to power recently. The question on everyone’s lips is how can one man be an adviser to so many conflicting parties?
A History of Nephew Rebellions
A rift between uncle and nephew, as was seen in Ajit Pawar’s failed rebellion against Sharad Pawar, is nothing new in Maharashtra politics. Earlier, Raj Thackeray too had split away from uncle Bal Thackeray and floated his own party. He was angry about cousin Uddhav being handed over the reins of the Shiv Sena. Also, the late BJP leader Gopinath Munde’s nephew Dhananjay Munde this time contested against his cousin Pankaja and defeated her. Interestingly, he is said to have fanned Ajit Pawar’s rebellion and then backed out.
The friendship between Aaditya Thackeray, son of Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, and Rohit Pawar, the grandson of Sharad Pawar, is an emerging
phenomenon in Maharashtra politics. Rohit, who won the Karjat Jamkhed constituency, is becoming a new mass leader of the NCP. Immediately after his victory, he called the defeated Sena candidate Ram Shinde to say they would together work for development. Then he called Uddhav. The last few days, Rohit and Aaditya were spotted together in meetings and gave photo-ops to the media, which shows the families are consciously projecting this connection.
Several five-star hotels and resorts did good business thanks to the Maharashtra government logjam. When the NCP booked rooms for its MLAs, immediately the BJP and the Shiv Sena also booked several rooms in there to monitor them. In several places, posters were provided with big photographs of NCP MLAs so that people could easily identify them in airports or train stations.
The Temple Fallout
In the first two weeks of December, all BJP MPs have been asked to be in Delhi because of the Parliament session. There had been many absentees in the recent past but the advisory has also led to a lot of speculation. When the Government had extended the last Parliament session by one week, no one had expected the abolition of Article 370 would take place. So now people think there might be some new major event in the offing. One possibility is that the Government may bring in the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill. If it is indeed put forward in Parliament, there is also the interesting question of what the Shiv Sena will do. It is a party that is based on Hindutva and would ordinarily have supported it. But now that they are in alliance with the Congress and NCP in the state, it might have to oppose it. Some Sena leaders think a walk-out strategy would be the best course of action.