Where Nothing Is Impossible: Why A BJP-NCP Alliance In Maharashtra Is Not As Unnatural As You May Think
Purely in terms of core electoral constituencies, a BJP-NCP alliance would be mutually beneficial to both, and disastrous for the Shiv Sena.
As of today, the biggest mystery facing India is whether Ajit Pawa’s latest moves have the blessings of his uncle and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) supremo, Sharad Pawar.
Pawar is a politician whose politics is very difficult to understand for seasoned politicians, leave alone mere mortals like us.
Is Sharad Pawar being genuine in saying that this move by his nephew has come as a surprise for him?
Or this move is indeed blessed by him?
The answers to that would be known by the 30th of November. I won’t put it beyond Sharad Pawar to bless Ajit to lead a breakaway faction of the NCP and form the government with the BJP. A family reunion can always happen down the line.
But in case an actual break has happened, Pawar will have a tough time saving his bastion of Western Maharashtra and Marathwada.
Ajit Pawar has a hold over a lot of the party machinery in these regions. A vertical split in the party would be bad news for Sharad Pawar who is not getting any younger at the age of 79.
If we try to go through the ideologies of various parties in Maharashtra, we find that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena have followed the ideology of Hindutva, whereas the Congress has followed ‘secularism’, which veers towards minority appeasement.
However, you would find that the NCP does not have any specific ideology. Their ideology only seems to be a practical pursuit of power.
The NCP has been with the Congress for around 18 years (they had briefly broken the alliance between 2014-16). Now, they were in talks with the Sena to form government. In a not too distant future, the whole party may ally with the BJP, as the Ajit Pawar faction has done now.
Ajit Pawar seems to have got 11-12 MLAs on his side as of now. Whether he can get the required 36 MLAs to be able to form a separate splinter group remains to be seen.
The respective social bases of BJP and NCP are complementary in nature. The BJP gets the support of Brahmins and other upper castes, OBCs, and the Scheduled Tribes in good numbers. The BJP also gets a sizeable amount of Maratha vote in most regions of the state.
The NCP on the other hand is an out-and-out Maratha party, supplemented by some OBC groups like the Malis etc. They get the Muslim vote due to their alliance with the Congress.
The social bases of the BJP and NCP are not antagonistic towards each other, unlike the Congress which can never ally with the BJP.
An alliance with the BJP could allow the NCP to expand its base it Mumbai-Thane, Marathwada, North Maharashtra and Vidarbha. These gains would come at the cost of the Congress and the Sena.
But all of that is in the future. Let us look at the likely scenarios staring at us in next 5-6 days.
: In case the BJP and Ajit Pawar faction can prove the majority in the Maharashtra assembly in the coming 2-5 days, this would mean a stable government, as long as Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar are able to tango along.
This would mean Ajit has the support of 36 MLAs to beat the anti-defection law and this would pave the way for him to formally create his new party.
This party would vertically split the NCP in Western Maharashtra, North Maharashtra, Marathwada and the Thane-Konkan region.
The Sena, NCP and Congress would end up as the big losers in this case. The BJP will be successful in getting rid of the Sena baggage and would set their eyes on winning the BMC and TMC elections in early 2022.
Devendra Fadnavis would have to step down in this case and the Sena-NCP-Congress combine would automatically form the government.
But all would not be lost for the BJP. They would have succeeded in breaking the NCP which was increasingly becoming a threat for the BJP.
It seems unlikely that Ajit Pawar would rejoin the NCP any time soon if this happens. Already, he was being marginalised in the party with the initiation of Pawar’s grandnephew in electoral politics and increased visibility for Supriya Sule.
Sharad Pawar would systematically end Ajit’s political career.
Ajit will vertically split the NCP and form a party of his own. He might not get overnight success, but he has time on his hands. Sharad Pawar is nearly 80 years old and would be in politics for probably the next five years.
Ajit Pawar is 60 years old and has minimum 15 years on his hand. The BJP would try to break the ruling coalition in the next 1-2 years and make it unstable.
: Knowing Sharad Pawar’s politics, this possibility is not to be ruled out. BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP and ex-NCP leader Sanjay Kakade has indicated that PM Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and Ajit Pawar are trying to convince Sharad Pawar to join the NDA and be a part of ruling alliance in the centre.
The Narendra Modi government has 4.5 years left in its current tenure. Pawar would be 84 years old by 2024 and this may be his last chance of being in power at the centre.
Also, he would have secured the future of his daughter Supriya Sule in Delhi, by making her a minister. Again, the biggest losers would be the Congress and Shiv Sena, who might be left out in the cold.
Whichever scenario plays out in Maharashtra, it is time to consider the possibility that in terms of electoral constituencies, a BJP-NCP alliance might be the most formidable force in Maharashtra’s politics.
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