By Sushil Kutty
The Modi Government will not topple Maha Vikas Aghadi. Not when it’s plagued with indecisiveness, and Shiv Sena Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut cannot with his utterances dissuade the Modi Government from targeting MVA ministers and legislators, members of the extended Thackeray family. Not as long as there are central enforcement agencies like the Enforcement Directorate, and the IT department to do the bidding.
These central agencies are proven attack dogs, irrespective of whichever party is in power. And they are by far more effective than the caged parrot in putting the fear of the punitive in anybody they target.
That said, the Shiv Sena and the MVA wouldn’t have had anything to fear if there weren’t so many suspect properties in the control of people related to Shiv Sena and NCP bigwigs. In fact, some of the relatives are too close for comfort for the Sena as well as the Maha Vikas Aghadi.
The problem for political parties is politicians as a whole are hogs for owning property. In Mumbai, where living space is scarce, owning property translates to owning tightly squeezed flats, there seems to be too many flats in the hands of single individuals; and how’s it that one person owns multiple flats and that individual is the relative of a Shiv Sena top shot?
It is such past acquisitions, past deeds, which are giving the Enforcement Directorate and its political masters, ammunition to parry accusations and pursue. And the ED is getting closer and closer to the people who really matter, people at the MVA’s nerve centre.
Starting from February 2022, the central agencies intensified their operations in Mumbai, prompting Shiv Sena Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut to cry foul. The central agencies’ drive targeting MVA has been relentless and the tempo increased in February and March of this year.
February 15, Raut called a presser and accused the Modi government of using central agencies to “topple” the Uddhav Thackeray Government. He alleged he himself was “contacted” and asked to desert the MVA. Then, the ED began “targeting family members to defame MVA leaders.”
But the bigger allegation is that “there is conspiracy afoot” to “topple governments in Maharashtra, West Bengal and Jharkhand”. The talk in Mumbai, however, is that the BJP central leadership lacks the mojo to “topple”.
At the state level, BJP operations against the MVA are being led by former CM Devendra Fadnavis. And left to himself, Fadnavis would have given “anjaam” to the operation. It was a personal affront to Fadnavis when the Sena ditched BJP and joined the NCP and Congress to deny him another CM term. Ever since Fadnavis has been smarting, and gunning for the MVA, and Uddhav Thackeray.
NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, the man behind Uddhav’s throne, sees the threat but Pawar is handicapped. Two of his close lieutenants, Anil Deshmukh and Nawab Malik, are behind bars, courtesy the ED, for alleged money laundering, and his nephew and Deputy CM Ajit Pawar could be a potential target.
The pressure is on Pawar, and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray is maintaining a studious silence, perhaps even strategic, even as the central agencies are going ahead full steam, giving rise to more and more “topple talk”. It’s as if the BJP has smelt capitulation and can’t wait to write the MVA’s obituary.
However, the BJP is on record that it doesn’t believe in toppling governments of opposition-ruled states. And it cannot cite “riots and charred bodies” to invoke constitutional articles to throw at state governments, not when its own state governments were let off lightly in similar situations, notably Gujarat 2002.
But there is 2024 looming nearer and nearer as the pressure builds. For someone who expects adversaries lurking in every shadow, and corner, the thought of not making it in 2024 is unthinkable. Control of Mumbai’s financial clout is crucial to winning 2024. Mumbai’s moneybags are fickle, they go with the flow, they’re ‘can’t be trusted’ folks.
The point is, to win 2024 requires winning Gujarat and the other states which go to polls later this year and in 2023. But Mumbai’s financial clout can be had only if Maharashtra is retrieved—lock, stock and barrel. (IPA Service)