By Sushil Kutty
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) Chief Sharad Pawar’s optimism knows no bounds, It was his optimism which made him break from the Congress and form the Nationalist Congress Party. Then, to cut a long story short, it was his optimism which made the Maha Vikas Aghadi, the same optimism which made the NCP ally with Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena and with the Congress to form the government in Maharashtra in 2019, which came to an abrupt end for reasons beyond his control.
The optimism should have gone with the fall of the MVA government and the series of setbacks that the Uddhav Thackeray faction of the Shiv Sena was hit with including the loss of the party’s election symbol and its very name. Today, it’s Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde who owns Balasaheb Thackeray’s Shiv Sena.
And it is being said that Sharad Pawar told Uddhav Thackeray to move on and not get lost in the langruous depths of despair and self-flagellation. Shard Pawar is both rudder and anchor of the MVA. On March 6, Sharad Pawar displayed another bout of optimism. Apparently Pawar is seeing a change coming, i.e., “the electorate in Maharashtra are looking for a change”.
And what’s his promise? “I will ensure the constituents of the Maha Vikas Aghadi contest the next assembly and Lok Sabha elections as one unit.” His optimism got a kick from the MVA’s byelection victory from Pune’s Kasba Peth assembly constituency, which is a BJP bastion, from where the Congress candidate Ravindra Dhangekar won with a handsome margin.
Pawar met Dhangekar and he liked what he saw. A “common people’s candidate”, he said. The NCP Chief sees many more “common people’s candidates” of the MVA scoring victories in the months to come. Appears like the MVA is making a quiet comeback at the grassroots level even as the BJP-Shinde Shiv Sena combine is lost in the redolent smells of winning court battles.
Sharad Pawar says the MVA will work according to a winning formula in the upcoming municipal elections. A team of the NCP is already on the job. Till then the NCP headman will concentrate all efforts to ensure that the troika of the MVA sticks together, and fights all elections together.
The NCP, the Congress and the Uddhav Thackeray Shiv Sena will make joint decisions. And they will contest the assembly, and 2024 Lok Sabha, elections as a single unit, just like what the people of Maharashtra expect them to, expect the Maha Vikas Aghadi to.
Apparently, Sharad Pawar’s optimism is infectious and has been catching on fast across all geographical terrains of the country’s most developed state. Whichever party/alliance wins Maharashtra is set for five years, except that the MVA lost it a little too faster than expected. “I am touring the state. The people want a change. They want the opposition parties to stick together,” he said.
It’s one man’s word against that of the rest, especially of the BJP-Shinde government, which must have heard Sharad Pawar, like you and me, the thunder and lightning of a rainy night; woken up to the desire in people clamouring for “change”.
The MVA, which was formed in the wake of 2019 assembly elections, is celebrating the Congress victory in the Kasba Peth byelection. The Congress party’s Ravindra Dhangekar beat the BJP’s Hemant Rasne by a margin of over 10,800 votes. Sharad Pawar’s optimism says the BJP’s defeat in Kasba Peth is proof that “change” is coming, a grand wind blowing the MVA way!
The Shinde Shiv Sena-BJP alliance has a task on hand. That much is for certain. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Minister Amit Shah won the northeast too easily. The remaining six assembly elections of 2023 wouldn’t be the same piece of cake if Sharad Pawar’s optimism is to go by. The NCP heavyweight is a warhorse, a veteran of many hard-fought battles; for which he has both scars and badges to show.
The Maharashtra political scenario right now is fluid. The skirmishes over party name and party name are over. The Eknath Shinde government has done nothing extraordinarily resounding or great to be hailed or flayed. The upcoming municipal elections will be its first test after having snatched power from the MVA.
The Mumbai municipal elections will be the first time when the voters will show whether they have taken Eknath Shinde for a betrayer or for a benefactor. The spirit of Shiv Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray will loom large over the elections. Along with Sharad Pawar’s overwhelming optimism! (IPA Service)