THE startling political developments in Maharashtra where the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has witnessed a vertical split can deeply impact the Opposition plans to build a united front to fight the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the 2024 general elections. The revolt by Mr. Ajit Pawar and his group against NCP supremo Mr. Sharad Pawar has now set the cat among the pigeons. What has happened in Maharashtra will certainly have a lasting imprint on the so-called Opposition unity even as Mr. Sharad Pawar finds himself cornered in both State as well as National politics.
All the fast-paced developments in the NCP after the swearing-in of Mr. Ajit Pawar as the Deputy Chief Minister along with eight other MLAs from his party have come as a bad portent for the Opposition leaders. The split has sent multiple signals to all regional and national parties, the biggest being extraordinary political acumen of the BJP leaders to go for the impossible. The Maharashtra drama has shown that nothing is impossible in politics. None would have thought that two top parties in the State -- the Shiv Sena and now the NCP -- would be divided with a vertical split. The two allies of the Maha Vikas Aaghadi (MVA) are now fighting a battle for survival even as the defectors are claiming absolute right over their respective parties. With their own house in total disarray, the two most-vocal critics of Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi are now in no position to bring together the Opposition on one platform. Though NCP Working President Ms Supriya Sule has claimed that developments in the party would not impact the Opposition unity, the words ring hollow. It is not going to cut ice with the other Opposition parties that are seeking a larger pie from the united front.
After the drama in Maharashtra, the NCP is clearly hurtling towards isolation in national politics. It had already lost its national party status after failing to fulfill the criterion laid down by the Election Commission of India (ECI). Now, it is at the political crossroads in the State with survival being the foremost priority. Like Shiv Sena, the NCP would also now be locked in a legal battle with the defectors’ group for party symbol and name. There are too many fronts to defend for Mr. Sharad Pawar and this time he hardly has a trusted lieutenant by his side.
The old war horse has again put up a brave face saying he was habitual of such storms in his political career. However, this time things look vastly different than what had happened last time when Mr. Ajit Pawar had become Deputy Chief Minister in an early morning development. The nephew seems to be in no mood to reconsider his decision and this time is bolstered by the presence of long-time Pawar loyalists Mr. Praful Patel and Mr. Chhagan Bhujbal. Quelling such a big resentment is pretty challenging for Mr. Sharad Pawar this time around. In these circumstances, cobbling up a new front of Opposition parties is a distant dream for the 82-year-old.
The NCP crisis is also a message to the Opposition members about the astonishing abilities of the BJP’s political machinery. That the party remains in an election mode round-the-clock, round-the-year is clearly an understatement. Across States, the BJP has managed to change political dynamics with its astute planning and out-of-the-box strategies. Maharashtra presents a solid example of how the BJP always comes up with an ace up its sleeve. Twice in a row, the BJP has managed to turn the tables on Mr. Sharad Pawar in Maharashtra. The octogenarian has clearly been stumped! The art of politics calls for smart strategies and BJP seems to have mastered it with meticulous planning and a long-term vision.