Tuesday, April 26, 2016

How to sabotage your own long term future – lessons from Maharashtra

For the first three decades of independent India, the ‘opposition’ parties didn’t have much of a space in Maharashtra. The Janata Party experiment in 1977 gave it some hope, but not at the state level. It took Sharad Pawar to break away from Congress and form PDA (Progressive Democratic Alliance). It was a curious mixture of a sizeable chunk of congressmen and a smattering of socialist and right-wing people. The experiment lasted for a couple of years and Sharad Pawar had to spend six more years in political wilderness before meekly re-joining congress.

It took another decade before the ‘opposition’ got a respectable number of seats in 1990 and finally enough to form a government in 1995. Even then, the Shiv Sena and BJP had only 138 out of 288 seats. The rest needed for the majority were ‘independents’, euphemism for power hungry and freely saleable political dons. The SS-BJP government from 1995 to 1999 was infamous for rampant corruption and lawlessness. So much so, that for the straight fifteen years after that, the parties mustered 125 (in 1999), 116 (in 2004) and 91 (in 2009) seats. Point to note - both Bal Thakre and Gopinath Munde were alive and kicking in all these elections. In 2014, the numbers were unbelievable. After breaking the ‘alliance’, BJP got 122 seats and Shiv Sena 63, in a multi-cornered contest. But the rancor between the erstwhile partners saw some mind boggling twists – Sharad Pawar offering ‘unconditional’ support to BJP, “in the interest of stability”. BJP did flirt with Pawar for quite some time, and then came back to its old partner.

With this background, let’s look at how the government is faring. BJP is seriously pursuing the commendable activity of self-destruction with a dedication unmatched so far. Its leaders have become more arrogant than congress leaders. And the chief minister is indecisive and spineless. Let us look at Ms. Pankaja Munde. Her claim to fame is that she is daughter of Gopinath Munde, the person who took BJP to rural Maharashtra with a vengeance. After his accidental death, Ms. Pankaja rose prominently on the political horizon. In the initial phase after the 2014 state assembly election results, she fantasized for a while about becoming the chief minister. Then she woke up, but didn’t keep quiet. After becoming minister, she was very quick to open her 'scam account'. Her latest utterings and actions amply justify the conclusion that she has a lot of growing up to do. And how does the CM respond? He keeps quiet, or he defends her.

Let us look at another self-proclaimed mass leader, Eknath Khadse. He thought his claim to the CM chair was much stronger, what with him being the leader of the opposition in the outgoing assembly and a six-term MLA and all that. But his lack of pan-state appeal and his blatant ‘family first’ principle worked against him. Apparently he still hasn’t recovered, and is following Ajit Pawar’s footsteps in being brazen. Mr. Khadse should remember the fate that befell Pawar.

After the serious spoil-sports, come the jokers for comic relief. BJP provided this through a little known party member called Makarand Deshpande. Mr. Deshpande came up with the brilliant idea of transporting water to Latur by train from Sangli. Each of these are questionable. Why Latur? Is it so that it is the only city in Maharashtra facing drought? The district collector doesn’t think so. Why by train? Because the Indian Railways have nothing else or better to do? And how much of Latur’s water needs are getting fulfilled by this fantastic exercise? A report says not enough. The eastern part of Sangli district, Jath, Atpadi and Kawathe Mahankal have been drought prone for the last few decades. Distance from Sangli? Around 100 – 150 km. Distance from Sangli to Latur? Around 300 km. Clear arithmetic, except that it is not clear to BJP.

Alliance partner Shiv Sena is doing its bit to harm the government. Uddhav Thakre, the party ‘Working’ President (only Bal Thakre could be the ‘President’) has been making noises, apparently ‘criticizing’ the government. BJP responded earlier in a provocative manner, but Uddhav continues to bark without biting. He is quite a pro in that game. During the 2014 assembly elections, when BJP broke the ‘alliance’, Shiv Sena criticized BJP bitterly, but spinelessly continued to hold on to minister’s post at the center.

And all this is happening when the state is facing one of the worst famines. And when in the civic poll results, BJP is in the fourth position. Congress, followed by NCP are the winners. PM Modi should either wake up, or keep quiet and write the ‘state donation receipt’ in the name of Congress.

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