Shiv Sena MPs have never been as much in demand as they are these days. Media persons in Parliament have been making a beeline for Sanjay Raut every day in the hope that they will get an inkling of what is going in Maharashtra and when a new government will take office. Raut is ever ready to hold forth but he doesn’t give much away.
The only hint he gave recently was to point out that the BJP had put all contentious issues on hold when Vajpayee formed his coalition government in 1998-1999. Raut indicated that Vajpayee’s was a very workable formula for all coalition governments whose partners have differing ideologies.
He seemed to be suggesting that Sena is ready to follow in Vajpayee’s footsteps and put its Hindutva agenda on the backburner to allow for smooth functioning of a Sena-NCP-Congress government. It is pertinent to note that Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray has postponed his planned trip to Ayodhya citing issues like the political crisis in Maharashtra and farmers’ distress. Immediately after the Supreme Court awarded the disputed site in Ayodhya to the Hindus for a temple, Thackeray had announced that he would go there on a thanksgiving pilgrimage on November 24.
The temple seems to be the first contentious issue to go into cold storage to facilitate a deal with the NCP and Congress. Interestingly, Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel of the NCP do not attract the same number of media persons, largely because they are even more circumspect than Raut. Pawar’s constant refrain has been this: what’s the hurry?
Called to battle
The Maharashtra crisis had its amusing moments. Like when legal eagles Kapil Sibal and Mukul Rohtagi received the all-important phone calls summoning them to appear in the Supreme Court. Sibal was called by the Shiv Sena. Rohtagi was summoned by Amit Shah. Ironically, both were attending the same wedding in Jaipur when they were ordered to reach Delhi by Sunday morning to appear for rival sides.
From being friends, they turned into opponents in the blink of an eye as they received and made a flurry of phone calls through the festivities. Since the hearing in court was scheduled for 10:30 am and both had to be briefed before that, they were provided with chartered planes to make the trip from Jaipur to Delhi. Naturally, they flew in separate planes and were met at the airport by the briefing juniors to prepare them for the hearing.
The missing MP
Rahul Gandhi was missing when the winter session of Parliament began. He was gone for the entire first week although several starred questions were listed against his name in Lok Sabha. Finally, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla passed a sarcastic remark about his absence as question after question had to be skipped because the questioner, Rahul Gandhi, was missing.
As usual, Congress circles were clueless about their former president’s whereabouts. They were just told that he was doing the Buddhist circuit to attend various vipasana camps. If the information trickling out of the Congress is to be believed, Rahul went to Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.
After its underwhelming performance in Maharashtra and Haryana, it seems the BJP is worried about the upcoming polls in Jharkhand. Reports from the state suggest that there is a surge of anger among tribals against the BJP’s politics of marginalising dominant groups in favour of a social coalition of other groups.
In Maharashtra, the BJP had created a coalition of non-Maratha groups and in Haryana, of non-Jat groups. The tactic succeeded in 2014 but in the recent assembly polls in these states, there was a backlash which led to a fall in numbers for the BJP. Something similar is brewing in Jharkhand where the tribals are chafing at the BJP’s politics of concentrating on non-tribal communities through a nontribal chief minister Raghubar Das.
The party has rested its hopes on former BJP tribal leader Babulal Marandi whose JVM has opted out of joining the Congress-JMM-RJD alliance. BJP strategists are hoping that Marandi’s party will cut into tribal votes and prevent a consolidation with the opposition alliance. The strategy did not work in Maharashtra and Haryana. In Maharashtra, the BJP wooed away Maratha leaders from NCP in the hope of splitting the community’s votes.
But the Marathas consolidated behind Sharad Pawar. In Haryana, the Jats divided their votes between Congress and JJP but they did so constituency wise to ensure that their vote did not split and allow the BJP candidate to win. Consequently, the BJP failed to reach the majority mark. The BJP is keeping its fingers crossed in Jharkhand but with every passing day, the news is worrisome.