Maha Vikas Aghadi: What makes this three-wheeler prone to crashes

Maha Vikas Aghadi: What makes this three-wheeler prone to crashes

On the evening of October 24, 2019, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Maharashtra was in a celebratory mood. Having won 164 seats, it had registered victory on 105. Its main ally in the state the Shiv Sena had won 56 of the 126 seats that it fielded candidates on. The BJP’s euphoria stemmed from the fact that the coalition crossed the halfway mark of 145 even before the trends for 250...

On the evening of October 24, 2019, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Maharashtra was in a celebratory mood. Having won 164 seats, it had registered victory on 105. Its main ally in the state the Shiv Sena had won 56 of the 126 seats that it fielded candidates on.

The BJP’s euphoria stemmed from the fact that the coalition crossed the halfway mark of 145 even before the trends for 250 seats were available for the 288-member Maharashtra Assembly.

The state, however, could not get a government over the next two months as the supremo of the undivided Shiv Sena, Uddhav Thackeray, began to play the hardball, demanding the chief ministerial position for his party. Most thought Thackeray may or may not get what he is asking for but he would stay with the National Democratic Alliance nevertheless. Even as news of Thackeray sending feelers to the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party and vice versa began circulating in the media, not many thought that the Shiv Sena would accept an alliance with parties outside the fold of the Hindu Right. There were also questions on whether the Congress and the NCP would join hands with a party that had not too far back in the past overtly been critical of the Muslims, that eulogises VD Savarkar and that at one point was a bigger champion of Hindutva than even the BJP.

But as things unfolded, the alliance was formed and Uddhav took over as the chief minister.

The BJP described the coalition as an ‘unholy alliance’. In political parlance, an unholy alliance refers to a grouping which is perceived as unnatural or simply undesirable. It includes seemingly antagonistic parties. A case in point was the truck between the BJP and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in 2014. That coalition too ended in about three years. Such coalitions often become a victim of their inherent contradictions.

In terms of its strangeness, the PDP-BJP alliance was very similar to the MVA in Maharashtra, given the ideological differences between its constituents. Comprising Shiv Sena (UBT) led by Uddhav Thackeray, NCP and the Congress, the alliance ruled Maharashtra for two-and-a-half years. Even as the alliance worked as a government the question before everyone was not ‘if’ but ‘when’ the grouping would implode. In June 2022, the implosion happened as Sena rebel Eknath Shinde landed in Assam.

The remnants of the alliance, however, keep showing signs of deeper fissures. Leaders of the MVA alliance are often seen airing contradictory views on crucial issues. The Federal analyses the personalities of some of the top leaders of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) to understand why staying united seems to be the biggest challenge today for the coalition amid speculations of senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar joining hands with the BJP.

Sharad Pawar — the architect of MVA

A seasoned politician with his political career spanning six decades, Sharad Pawar is the architect as well as the driving force of the MVA. When the BJP rejected Shiv Sena’s claim on the CM’s post after the 2019 Assembly elections, Pawar made the most of the opportunity. He not only spearheaded the dramatic divorce of ideological twins BJP and Shiv Sena but also stitched perhaps the most unlikely alliance in India’s political history in the form of the MVA – the coalition of NCP, Shiv Sena and Congress.

Pawar often dons the cap of a peacemaker between the alliance partners whose ideological positions are poles apart. When Congress leader Rahul Gandhi recently targeted Hindutva ideologue and controversial freedom fighter VD Savarkar, drawing flak from the Shiv Sena (UBT), it was Pawar who brokered peace between the two parties. It won’t be wrong to say that Pawar is the key cog in the MVA machine, as he believes in taking everyone along.

Interestingly, at the same time, unpredictability has been one of the perennial attributes of his personality. There is a saying about him in the political corridors of Maharashtra — “Sharad Pawar never does what he says, and never says what he does.” True to his style, the Maratha satrap recently stumped one and all when he broke ranks with the Opposition over the issue of a JPC probe into the Adani issue, stating that he was content with the SC-monitored probe. This was in stark contrast to the stand taken by other two MVA allies — Congress and Shiv Sena (UBT).

However, Pawar may upset the BJP’s applecart in the coming Lok Sabha and Maharashtra Assembly elections, if he manages to keep the MVA intact and give a united fight to the saffron brigade’s 24×7 election machine.

Ajit Pawar — The man with chief ministerial ambitions

Nephew of Sharad Pawar, Ajit is the man at the centre of the fresh trouble brewing for the Maha Vikas Aghadi in Maharashtra, as speculations are rife that he may engineer a split in the NCP and join hands with the BJP. The rumour mills are working overtime, as there are reports that the Supreme Court may disqualify 16 MLAs of Shiv Sena’s Shinde faction and the BJP may need some more MLAs to stay in power.

The son of Sharad Pawar’s elder brother Anantrao, Ajit Pawar has made no bones of his chief ministerial ambitions, as he recently stated that the NCP can stake a claim to the post of Maharashtra’s chief minister. In 2004, Ajit came out in the open and resented the party leadership’s move to concede chief ministership to the Congress despite emerging as the single-largest party. Later, he was appointed Deputy CM in the ruling NCP-Congress alliance.

The rumours about Ajit being in touch with the BJP are gaining currency, as he flirted with the saffron party in 2019 as well when he along with BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis were sworn in in a hasty early morning ceremony after a midnight coup of sorts. However, the government lasted for merely three days and surprisingly the NCP allowed Ajit to return to the party fold.

Ajit recently engaged in a war of words with Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Sanjay Raut after the latter quoted Sharad Pawar in party’s mouthpiece Saamana, saying the NCP, as a party, would never join hands with the BJP even if anyone takes an individual decision to do so. Ajit said, “Some people are behaving like NCP spokesperson and speaking about our party affairs. They should remain their party’s spokespersons rather than trying to become ours.”

Like his uncle, Ajit too has been known for taking the stand in divergence with that of the MVA allies. For instance, talking about a controversy on the prime minister’s educational qualifications, he recently stated that people voted for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s charisma and not his degree in 2014. This was contrary to the stand of Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray who had questioned Modi over his degree row.

Ajit was the Deputy CM, also holding the finance portfolio, in the previous MVA regime and was appointed the Leader of Opposition after the fall of the government. Interestingly, the Sena rebels had painted the NCP as the villain at the time of split, claiming that it called the shots in the MVA and denied funds for their constituencies.

Uddhav Thackeray — The face of MVA

Engaged in a bitter battle of Balasaheb Thackeray’s legacy with his arch rival Eknath Shinde, Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray is the face of MVA. He led the MVA regime for two and a half years, becoming the first Thackeray to hold a public office.

A JJ Institute of Applied Arts graduate, Uddhav didn’t have any inclination towards politics. He hesitantly ventured into the political arena in the early 1990s, but was overshadowed by cousin Raj Thackeray who was seen by many as Balasaheb’s “natural successor”. After almost a decade, he was appointed as the executive president of the Shiv Sena in 2002. Though he lacked the charisma of his father, he managed to keep the flock together after the latter’s death in 2012. The Shiv Sena under him also returned to power in 2019, though in alliance with parties having contrasting ideologies.

With Hindutva forming the core of their ideology, the Shiv Sena (UBT) chief has often been at the loggerheads with his allies — NCP and Congress. He had locked horns with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi a couple of months back over the latter’s remarks. After his disqualification as Lok Sabha MP, Rahul had said, “My name is not Savarkar, my name is Gandhi and Gandhi does not offer an apology to anyone.” Uddhav minced no words and told Rahul that he considered Savarkar as his “icon” and he should refrain from “insulting” him.

Sanjay Raut — Uddhav’s man Friday

Seen as Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray’s man Friday and troubleshooter, Sena’s chief spokesperson and four-time Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut is also credited with playing a major role in formation of the Maha Vikas Aghad along with NCP supremo Sharad Pawar.

Raut was the lone politician who consistently hogged the limelight all through the tenure of the previous MVA regime. He gradually cemented his position as the Number 2 in the party after Thackeray, which didn’t go down well with Eknath Shinde and other rebels. They made a veiled attack on Raut while stating that Thackeray listens to nobody but a coterie that surrounds him.

Raut has often courted controversies as he is usually the first one to react whenever any MVA leader makes a comment that is contrary to the stand of Shiv Sena (UBT). He was at daggers drawn with Ajit Pawar recently when he quoted Sharad Pawar over the rumblings in the NCP in Sena mouthpiece Saamana of which he is the executive editor.

Raut and Pawar are mostly not on the same page when it comes to the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. While Raut has been unsparing in his barbs against the ruling party and PM Modi, Pawar treads with caution and merely ends up targeting Shinde camp of the Shiv Sena, inviting allegations of being soft on the BJP. His rivals often ask why Ajit’s political attacks on the Sena-BJP government are restricted to the Shinde faction.

Nana Patole — Firebrand state Congress chief

A prominent OBC face, Nana Patole is heading the Maharashtra unit of the Congress. He is seen as a leader with a rebellious streak who often indulges in plainspeak. During his stint as Lok Sabha MP with the BJP, he had said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi does not like being asked questions. In 2017, he said the PM had got angry with him when he tried to raise issues about the OBC ministry and farmer suicides at a meeting of BJP MPs.

Patole doesn’t hesitate in taking a stand over any issue. For instance, he fully backed Rahul Gandhi on Savarkar row, contending that the party’s stand on the Hindutva ideologue is not new. He also clarified that the MVA was formed on a common minimum programme for a larger battle to save the country’s Constitution and democracy. During the previous MVA regime, Patole’s criticism of allies NCP and Shiv Sena used to ruffle feathers of many a leaders, leaving the Congress leadership to do the firefighting.

An outspoken leader, Patole has engaged in a war of words with MVA leaders like Sanjay Raut and Ajit Pawar on various occasions in the past. He had hit back at Raut when the latter suggested in Sena mouthpiece Saamana that the MVA government would have survived, if Patole had not resigned as the Maharashtra Assembly Speaker. Patole asked Sena to follow coalition dharma and respect the decisions of the Congress party.

He recently slammed Ajit Pawar over speculations of NCP and BJP coming together in APMC (Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee) polls, to which the latter objected in strong words. Ajit said many a times Patole raises such issues that lead to differences in the MVA. He should take up the matter, if any, with the alliance partners instead of airing his views in the media, he added. Like Shiv Sena leader Raut, Patole too doesn’t like Ajit’s “soft approach” towards the BJP.

Balasaheb Thorat — Quintessential Congressman

A low-profile grassroots leader who occupied several key posts in the party, from CWC membership to heading its state unit, Balasaheb Thorat is the rural face of the party, with strong roots in Maharashtra’s widespread cooperative network. He is not known for saying anything out of place and therefore steers clear of controversies.

Thorat led the Maharashtra Congress in 2019 Assembly elections and managed to win a creditable 44 seats despite the party being in complete disarray ahead of the polls. He was the revenue minister in the previous MVA regime. Patole replaced him as state unit president in February 2021.

Thorat resigned as the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader in Maharashtra earlier this year after a controversy over the Legislative Council polls to Nashik graduates’ constituency. His nephew Satyajeet Tambe rebelled and contested as an Independent after the Congress allotted the ticket to his father Sudhir Tambe. Later, Sudhir refrained from filing even his nomination papers, while Satyajeet emerged victorious.

Thorat was quite vocal during the previous MVA regime as he took on the alliance partner, Shiv Sena, on various occasions. He had expressed his displeasure over allotment of portfolios to the Congress. He had denounced Sena’s proposal to rename Aurangabad Sambhaji Nagar, contending that it would not be dragged into another party’s politics. He had also slammed the Shiv Sena for supporting the candidature of Droupadi Murmu and not Yashwant Sinha in Presidential elections.

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