Monday, 6 October 2014

'Tribute' to Bal Thackeray: Modi buys post poll insurance while others slug it out

Mumbai: Narendra Modi has set a scorching pace of electioneering for Maharashtra’s Assembly seats and it is hardly likely that any other rival, its old friend turned foe included, can match that.
They are trying hard though, with local leaders, except for the Congress which has its Sonia Gandhi to somewhat feebly counter the prime minister’s blitzkrieg.
In an election, with five major parties in the fray, each contesting as many as, or up to, 250 of the 288 available seats, the outcome on 19 October may be a toss-up, with the possibility that it could throw up a Delhi-like situation, with no one being able to form a government, or them having to go to bed with those they broke up with and then cursed in the campaign.
If there is a possibility of any pair of parties getting back into business again, they would be the old pairs – Congress and the NCP on one hand, and the BJP and the Shiv Sena on the other.
The MNS lurks in the dark corner seemingly backed by a large section of impatient youth who tired of waiting five months for Modi to “deliver”, and are upset with the rude BJP-Sena divorce.
PM Modi in Sangli yesterday
PM Modi in Sangli yesterday
All political parties have their internal calculations (as they always do), updating the scales on a daily basis, about expected wins and losses. Sharing it with the public can be the undoing of their respective chances. However, both BJP and the Sena have betrayed their nervousness, and a realisation, that each may need the other.
Here is how:
When Modi, speaking in Tasgaon on Sunday, said he would not utter a word to criticise the Sena because of the respect he had for the late Bal Thackeray, he actually said a lot.
Not 'wanting' to criticise does not mean there are no issues to attack on. He merely said, in a roundabout way, that he had the dope, but was holding back.
Bal Thackeray is the Sena’s known soft spot, and he is much revered within the party. If he was criticised by the BJP, especially Modi, then all hopes of a future with the Sena would have evaporated. This he avoided. But he did bare his teeth a day earlier in Mumbai, cleverly clubbing the Sena, NCP, MNS and Congress together when he spoke of thuggery.
Since Modi spoke at the Mumbai racecourse rally after BJP’s state chief, Devendra Fadnavis underlined the Sena’s contradictions - indulging in extortion while also singing paeans to Shivaji - the message stands delivered.
The BJP will show restraint, but the Sena had better behave, should they need each other in the future.
But the former partner remains obstinate by asking BJP if it had such reverence for the Sena’s founder, how come it had forgotten it when breaking the longest enduring political alliance in the country.
It appears that the Sena is not yet tired of delivering barbs, and is trying to keep Bal Thackeray alive in the voter’s memory while doing it.
The Congress and its 15-year-old ally have nothing to lose right now, except each other and the confidence of the voters. And if they go hammer and tongs, it should hardly matter. Unless, of course, a miracle is showered upon the electoral scene, multi-polar contests will not be throwing up any results. At that time, surprises wouldn’t seem to be astonishing.
Modi has cleverly thrown the Sena, NCP and the MNS into one basket of regional parties, and has said how, if they managed to get to play a key role after the elections, it would be hard for the Centre to work with them. Antagonism from them – when they chose not to sit with him – would mess up efforts to help the state.
Sena has been on the edge ever since the Lok Sabha poll outcome where the BJP won such a big victory that it no longer really needed any of its allies. It barely blinked when the Haryana Janhit Congress separated from it. The party can easily afford to re-examine the need for tie-up a full four years from now, by when Modi would have performed or not.
The Sena first discounted the Modi wave, then refused to yield its seats which it saw it losing, or even losing the deposits, to BJP lest it won them and bettered the Sena’s numbers, given the history of the BJP’s high strike rates. Not wanting to allow its ally to win even such lost seats was an exhibition of fear that it had to hide by a barrage of the bellicose.
It was protesting too much.
On an intra-alliance basis, Uddhav Thackeray’s misgivings contradicted the principle of an alliance where the purpose is to remain together to foil all and any enemies. That was the underlining principle on which all anti-BJP parties forgather to “keep the communal forces out”, making secularism a mask for opportunism. Instead, fear of the BJP ruled.
Uddhav is wading deeper into anti-BJPism because unless he did that, it would be hard to fight for the share of the constituency – or support base – they both shared. Neither party knows how much traditional voter backing they have on their own, because in most constituencies, they contested as an unit.
Uddhav may have sensed much earlier what Sharad Pawar spoke of the other day. With uncharacteristic outspokenness, he categorised the BJP-Sena split as “bomb blast” with the BJP’s potential to wean away the NCP’s own candidates and aspirants and land them on its ballot papers.
In this election with a likely uncertain outcome, it would be foolhardy to seriously take the proclamations of any party that they don't want to go into a post-poll alliance.
Realpolitik would ensure a more sober analysis of the possible, even the improbable, and seek power. If NCP could have tied up with Congress after a bitter anti-Sonia Gandhi platform in 1999, one can expect anything.
BJP’s state leaders, and the tallest of them all in the BJP, Narendra Modi, have brought an insurance against not being able to win 145 seats in an Assembly of 288 members. But that is being nice in cutthroat politics by which he hopes not to alienate the floating voters who have a soft corner for Sena.