MAHA GAMES … Congress might back the Sena afterall and be part of government

MUMBAI: With the Congress party veering round to the view that an alliance with the NCP and the Shiv Sena is the only way to grab power in Maharashtra, hopes rose in the three-party camps for the installation of a ministry headed by the Sena – it holding the CM post while ministries will be shared equally between the three.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar, who met prime minister Narendra Modi in Delhi this week ostensibly to raise the “issues of farmers”, is now in a mood to join hands with its ally the Congress as also the Shiv Sena to form the next government. Pawar had sought to delay the three-party alliance formation, preparatory to ministry-making, as he wanted to test the waters in Delhi first, say some Congress sources.
Rumours are that Pawar was ready to cast the NCP’s lot with the BJP to form a government and put the Congress and the Shiv Sena on the Opposition benches in the state – but, on a condition that he would get the President post after the incumbent Ramnath Kovind retires. It is clear that Kovind will not get a second term, as others are waiting in the queue for the nod from the BJP leadership and PM Modi to step in to the post.
Speculations are that PM Modi would, however, not give the President post to Pawar. The post generally goes to someone who has a close rapport with the Prime Minister, and one whom the PM can depend on at critical times. Sharad Pawar clearly does not fit the bill. He’s a big fish and no one trusts him. He had got out of the Congress repeatedly after his efforts to outwit the party leadership failed.
Pawar last exited from the Congress after opposing the plan to make Sonia Gandhi the party chief. Pawar protested against a “foreigner” being made the Congress chief. At that time, there was a vacuum in the Congress leadership, and Pawar hoped to take the party under his control. The sycophants’ brigade that fills the Congress party’s top layers did not back Pawar, and poured cold water on his hopes. Pawar went on to form the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and in later years shared power with the Congress under the UPA arrangement. Now, the scenario is such that Sonia Gandhi needs Pawar and Pawar needs Sonia to further their political goals.
Point to note is that the Shiv Sena is not very enthusiastic about sharing power with Sharad Pawar, the wily Maratha leader from Western Maharashtra, where the Sena too is trying to dig its heels in. The Sena did not get expected support from this region in the recent assembly polls, as Sharad Pawar resurrected himself from a political low and campaigned aggressively for the NCP despite his ill health and won a good number of seats. This worked to the disadvantage of the Sena. In total, the NCP has 54 MLAs against the Sena’s 56.
Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray is no match to Pawar’s wits. The old warhorse has much firepower still left in him. If a three-party government is formed with Uddhav or his son at its head, Pawar can be depended on to turn the tables on the CM sooner than later. The Sena leadership is mindful of this possibility, but it is now important for the Sena to get the CM post, and it is ready for any sacrifice, come what may. Having staked the claim, the party cannot go back on its demand, else it will risk a major loss of face. Uddhav’s leadership strength itself will thus be called into question.
The Congress leaders in Maharashtra see this as the long-awaited opportunity to grab power from the BJP-Sena combine and be on a joy ride. Mumbai as the commercial hub of India is where money is. Politicians in Mumbai have for long been minting money – away from the Mint street, of course, and through foul means. The BJP had exercised considerable control over such obsessions. With a Sena-NCP-Congress government all set to come into being, it could be days of open loot. For the Congress, ideology can wait, for now. –IHN-NN

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