Congress' 'big brother attitude' is dividing the opposition in Maharashtra
The BJP-Shiv Sena coalition government in Maharashtra has all the reason to smile with the opposition weakening by the day. The Congress' attitude is not going down well with the Sharad Pawar's NCP and the effects are being felt on the ground.
At a time when Devendra Fadnavis' government is most vulnerable with corruption allegations denting its clean image, the opposition is inching towards becoming a divided house. The Nationalist Congress Party has blamed it all on the Congress' 'big brother' attitude. The standoff became public in the Maharashtra assembly when both parties moved for their leaders to be mentioned first.
Congress demanded that Indira Gandhi's achievement be mentioned first to mark her birth centenary while the NCP demanded that achievements of its chief Sharad Pawar should be mentioned first. While the parties agreed to stay united and launch attacks on the government, all is not well in the Maharashtra opposition.
Will NCP go the JD(U) way?
The Gujarat Rajya Sabha elections, NCP refusing to attend a meeting called by the Congress are all indications of bitterness between the two parties in Maharashtra. It may be recalled that the JD(U)' rift with the Congress in specific and united opposition, in general, began with the Presidential elections. The JD(U) refused to be part of a meeting called by Sonia Gandhi to decide on the opposition's candidate for the Presidential election to counter Ram Nath Kovind. The NCP too is now staging a similar protest by refusing to attend meetings.
Given the bitterness among the opposition leaders in Maharashtra, speculations are rife that NCP may sever ties with the Congress. The NCP earlier had announced that it intended to contest assembly elections in Gujarat as a Congress ally.
Sharad Pawar is no Nitish Kumar
Pawar has been critical of the BJP and its ideology all his political life. His stance has been that of secularism. While his options to join the BJP, when he left the Congress were open, he chose against it. While leaving the Congress may be an option, Sharad Pawar is unlikely to consider joining hands with the BJP. However, politics is a field full of surprising uncertainties.
Unlike Nitish Kumar, who was first in the NDA, Sharad Pawar has always been away from the BJP and its allies. While BJP leaders like late Pramod Mahajan were good friends of Sharad Pawar, aligning with the BJP was something that he never tried. While joining the BJP may cost Sharad Pawar his traditional votes, it will also dent the Congress' vote share. Pawar is an ally that the BJP would not mind but the Congress should not give up.