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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 28, July 8, 2023

NCP Split Signals Pincer Attack of BJP on the Opposition | S N Sahu

Friday 7 July 2023, by S N Sahu


With Ajit Pawar taking oath as Deputy Chief Minister and eight other Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) MLAs as Cabinet Ministers in Maharashtra, both Prime Minister Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah nourish the fond hope that such inductions from NCP would bolster their political strategy, after splitting Shiv Sena in 2022, for winning most of the State’s 48 Lok Sabha seats in 2024 general elections. After Eknath Shinde took over as Chief Minister last year an aggressive campaign has been launched in many parts of Maharashtra by Hindutva organisations to stoke venomous anti-Muslim sentiments for mobilising votes of Hindus and consolidate them in favour of the ruling alliance. Even Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis who is bound by the oath he has taken to treat people equally regardless of their faith or any other identity used hateful words "Aurangzeb ki Aulad" " as a dog whistle to target Muslims when Hindutva groups attacked their homes and other establishments in Kolhapur on the basis of the alleged circulation of the image of Tipu Sultan or Aurangzeb. All those aggressive campaigns against Muslims continued unchecked as the Eknath Shinde Government did not apply the law or any coercive action against those spreading hatred, inflaming communal passions and indulging in violence in the name of faith. The callous indifference of the Government was sustained in spite of the sharp and caustic remarks of the Supreme Court that the State has become impotent and, therefore, those forces spewing venom against Muslims and other minorities continued with their no holds barred violent campaign in the name of faith.

Sharad Pawar’s Stand Against Communalism of BJP

After Ajit Pawar took oath as Deputy Chief Minister NCP President Sharad Pawar while addressing the party workers referred to the tension being stoked by inciting people on the basis of their faiths and observed that there was a need to fight forces creating communal divide in Maharashtra and the country.

Proceeding further he added, "Attempts are being made to create communal divide in Maharashtra and the country,” and stressed the need to protect democracy. He attributed the split of his party to the “wrong kind of tendency” rearing its head and asserted that some members of his party fell prey to such a tendency.

Maharashtra Pride Under Attack

He described Maharashtra as the land of Shahu Maharaj, Phule and Ambedkar and asserted the common people of the State would “show the tendencies, which are instrumental in breaking the other parties, their right place.” These words of Sharad Pawar are evocative of what Mahatma Gandhi wrote about Maharashtra in Navajivan on 29thMay 1921. Describing it as place of pilgrimage because Lokamanya Tilak was born there and it produced Shivaji, Ramdas and Tukaram he wrote, “I have always believed that Maharashtra, if it wills, can do anything.”

What Pawar was invoking was the Maharashtra Asmita, the pride and esteem which he felt is under severe assault

In the recent past several key projects earmarked for implementation in Maharashtra were shifted to Gujarat after Eknath Shinde took over as Chief Minister with the support of BJP following the split in Shiv Sena. It is reported that all such things are happening at the behest of Prime Minister Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah. There is massive resentment brewing among Maharashtrians that their State is subjected to discriminatory treatment which favours Gujarat. Therefore, the deep sense of hurt felt by them is being articulated by opposition parties including NCP which is targeted by Prime Minister Modi. He said in his recent speech in Bhopal that NCP is involved in scams amounting to seventy thousand crores. He explicitly talked about the irrigation and cooperative scams and several others in which some of the NCP leaders are involved and they are subjected to investigation by several agencies including the Enforcement Directorate, Income Tax and CBI. Ironically in less than a week after Modi said so some NCP leaders -Ajit Pawar, Chhagan Bhujbal, Aditi Tatkare and Hasan Mushrif — joined the Council of Ministers of Shiv Sena-BJP Government in Maharashtra.

In people’s perception all such developments grievously harm the reputation and respect of the State of Maharashtra. They firmly believe that the kind of politics being pursued in the State by BJP’s top leadership is nothing but crude and ruthless quest for power in complete disregard of people who feel humiliated and slighted by such machinations.

Polarisation is Not Working in favour of BJP

Curiously splitting of Shiv Sena and the unacceptable levels hostility deliberately fostered against Muslims to polarise electorate do not seem to be working in favour of BJP. Some surveys which brought out the diminishing electoral prospects for the party in the State are mounting the worries of BJP leadership. After the shocking defeat of BJP in Karnataka elections the editorial of the RSS mouthpiece very candidly observed in its editorial that neither Modi’s appeal nor Hindutva would be enough to get votes for the party.

BJP Claims Regional Parties would be eliminated

Therefore, there is anxiety among BJP leaders that the party does not have good prospects of winning most of the 48 Lok Sabha seats of Maharashtra. That was why frantic attempts were made to cause vertical split of NCP and induct eight of its MLAs to the Council of Ministers. Such politically earth shaking event has taken place in Maharashtra a year after vertical split suffered by Shiv Sena whose leader Uddhav Thackeray was the Chief Minister heading the Maha Vikas Aghadi coalition government consisting of his party, NCP and Congress.

The breaking up of the Shiv Sena and NCP in the State seems to be the logical outcome of the BJP President J P Nada’s statement of 1st August 2022 that in the coming time, all the regional parties would be eliminated from the country and only Bhartiya Janata Party will be left and no other party can stand in front of it.

Attack on Opposition Unity

To ensure that no other party can stand up to BJP attempts are being made to strike at the very root of unity of opposition parties. While BJP itself is in the forefront of doing so, the NCP leaders who joined the Shinde led Government are also scoffing at opposition unity. For instance, Praful Patel said that what he saw in the Patna meeting of 17 opposition parties to forge unity among them is laughable. What it indicates is that the NCP split has been caused not only to demolish it but also demolish the opposition unity which Prime Modi feels would pose serious challenge to the electoral prospects of BJP in 2024. The manner in which both the Shiv Sena and NCP have been torn asunder to place a BJP dominated Government in Maharashtra indicates the motive force actuating it to launch pincer attack on opposition parties and make them incapacitated to electorally challenge BJP. Only time would tell how far it would succeed. But the danger for opposition parties is mounting. The clear signal from the BJP is that none would be spared, come what may.

(Author: S N Sahu served as Officer on Special Duty to President of India K R Narayanan)

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