By Sunil Dang
When NCP chief Sharad Pawar was celebrating his 75th birthday in New Delhi, I was amazed to see people from all cross sections of the politics joining in to wish the Maratha Satrap. While wishing Pawar on the occasion, I remember Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s words that nobody except Pawar understood— it was about the kind of googly coming in from the Maharashtra strongman — an indication that NCP chief has the ability to sniff the blowing political wind. Pawar is once again proving Sonia Gandhi right by sending fillers to the BJP which has very recently snapped ties with its 25 year old ally Shiv Sena just ahead of the BMC polls. Pawar’s shift from the UPA to NDA (if it happens) would establish that he is acceptable to both the national parties and the fleet of leaders present on his birthday celebration is enough to understand its impact on the alliance he is going to join or the alliance he is leaving.
From Congress perspective, if NCP decides to join hands with BJP, it would become difficult for the grand old party to stop BJP in the state of Maharashtra in the coming 2019 Lok Sabha polls as it won’t be able to forge any kind of alliance with the Shiv Sena whom it recognizes a fundamental Hindu outfit. It would not only dent Congress in long term, it would dent Shiv Sena too as the solace of forging alliance or merger with nephew Raj Thakrey’s MNS won’t be able to pare the vote loss due to its difference from ‘party with difference.’
However, from Sharad Pawar’s perspective, it would be a major gain for his party because he would be able to fill the vacancy left by the Shiv Sena in the Maharashtra government. Apart from this, it would help him put curtains on the corruption charges being labeled against his party leaders in last few years. Being a regional party, it’s important to be in the government because in such situation, it helps you make your reach towards your voters with ease while for Shiv Sena, it has already on the receiving end for the last one decade. Not being in the state cabinet would further push Shiv Sena to the corner and Sharad Pawar wants just that. His main rival in Maharashtra is Shiv Sena not BJP or Congress as they would pave way for his party to the central cabinet and the BCCI. His decision to announce unconditional support to the BJP immediately after the Maharashtra Assembly’s fractured mandate in 2014 is a glaring example of it. He knew that BJP can win support of the Shiv Saniks, but by lending support to BJP, Pawar minimize Uddhav Thakrey’s bargaining power which could have helped him grow Shiv Sena.
But, from BJP’s perspective, Pawar may be proving an opportunity to give Congress ‘Dutch therapy’ for losing Bihar CM Nitish Kumar to the UPA camp; they need to remain cautious as Sharad Pawar possesses a trait of ‘traitor.’ By bestowing on the Padma Vibhushan award to the NCP chief and opening ways for Sharad Pawar to the Maharashtra government, they might be opening a window of opportunity for wilting NCP, which Padma Vibhushan Sharad Pawar has grabbed with both hands.
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