Let’s Not Waste a Good Maharashtra Political Crisis
Video Producers: Shohini Bose
Video Editor: Vivek Gupta
Cameraperson: Sumit Badola
The Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress coalition in Maharashtra is perhaps the second most ‘unthinkable’ political alliance in India, next only to the most incompatible BJP-PDP coalition in Jammu & Kashmir, that ended with devastating consequences.
So, what are the lessons from this most unusual, 80-hour-long Maharashtra political fiasco?
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Lesson One: For President Ram Nath Kovind
Don't Allow Dangerous Breach of Due Process
Unfortunately, his constitutional obligations have been highly compromised. He should recall the folly of former President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed on the intervening night of 25/26 June 1975, when Mrs Indira Gandhi’s Proclamation of Emergency was signed without any Cabinet advice. As a young political activist then, I am sure Ram Nath Kovind must have joined his leaders in brutally condemning that constitutional travesty. Now the baton is with him. He must never allow such a dangerous breach of due process, ever again.
Lesson Two: For Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari
Quit to Restore Sanctity of Office
Sad, because his conduct was dubiously partisan. He almost seemed to be acting on the orders of his erstwhile political masters. He must recall the condemnation heaped on former Governor Buta Singh, who whimsically dismissed Bihar’s elected Assembly in 2005, simply because Lalu Prasad Yadav, an influential minister in the UPA government at the Centre, wanted it so. Again, I am sure Koshyari must have railed against that politically obnoxious action. Perhaps he should now take moral responsibility and quit, restoring the sanctity of his office.
Lesson Three: For the BJP and Prime Minister Modi
Tweeting Can Be Injurious to Health
From here on, the Modi government must give supreme precedence to democratic institutions and conventions. Politics, the “art of the possible”, cannot degenerate into “only ends matter, however questionable the means”. If anything, a graceful acceptance of loss is an asset; it enhances, does not diminish, one’s political stature. And by the way, tweeting can be injurious to health. A usually circumspect PM Modi made a flamboyant political error when he tweeted, within a minute of that early morning coup, congratulating Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar. His alacrity virtually made him the architect of this operation in public perception. Honestly, I was surprised that a consummate, legendarily patient prime minister was so keen to put his signature at such a premature, uncertain stage of the takeover.
Lesson Four: For Congress and Sonia Gandhi
1. Fight Hard Because the BJP Isn't Invincible
2. Forge a Sustained Rainbow Coalition and Empower Own Political Heavyweights
Most battles are lost in the mind. But see how the Congress, which seemed to have given up even before the campaign began, is now in government in Maharashtra! Plus, in four other powerful states of north, west and central India. Thanks to the never-say-die spirit of its own partially estranged veterans. So, the twin lessons for Congress are obvious: Pick up the gauntlet and fight hard against the BJP, which is not invincible. And reach out to the formidable clutch of ex-colleagues who have created fortresses against the ruling regime, ranging from Pawar to Mamata to Yadavs to Naidu, and forge a sustained rainbow coalition. Engage, communicate, trust, and create mechanisms to give this a near-permanent edifice. Also empower your own political heavyweights. Do not allow this momentum to flag.
Lesson Five: For Sharad Pawar
Become the Fulcrum of a Combined Opposition to Take on Mighty Modi
It’s a grand, as-yet-evolving autumn for the patriarch. He has emerged as the Bhishma Pitamah (aka as the wisest statesman from Mahabharata) of Opposition politics. He insisted on Uddhav Thackeray leading a five-year government, proving that ego is the most dispensable item for a successful leader. He persuaded Congress to join the government, maximising the coalition’s stability. He wooed back Ajit Pawar, his errant political progeny, showing the power of reconciliation and restraint in winning rearguard battles. He was resolute, not angry. In fact, I would wager that he made the enviable transition from a master strategist to a political statesman. His challenge is now crystal clear – he should become the fulcrum of a combined Opposition to take on the powerful Modi-led BJP, so that whatever the outcome in 2024, India ends up with a more balanced, fair, and equitable democracy.
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