For BJP, Aryan Khan Case Is a Lesson That Friends-Turned-Foes Are Dangerous
The tussle with the Maharashtra government has cost the BJP dearly as NCP is no stranger to its strong-arm tactics.
Two years ago, it would have been impossible to believe that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would be down in the dumps in Maharashtra. The ragtag Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA), an unlikely coalition of ideologically opposed parties, one of them the oldest ally of the BJP, was not expected to last beyond a few months. But now, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Shiv Sena are proving to the BJP the truth of the old European adage, that when a friend turns a foe, you have nowhere to go because he knows all your secrets and vulnerabilities.
So, the BJP’s old tried-and-tested formula of throwing central agencies at political rivals and those they wish to cow down suddenly seems not to be working at all. The manner in which Maharashtra Minister Nawab Malik seems to have gone for the jugular of the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) chief, Sameer Wankhede, has a subtext – Sharad Pawar has made up his mind that there can be no friendship with the BJP after women in his family were raided by central agencies, and Malik, actually playing the role of a Home Minister, is tearing the reputation of the BJP to shreds by exposing the criminal nexuses of its leaders.
Crime & Politics
However that may be, the proximity of criminals to the ruling dispensation and that of a drug dealer to their former Chief Minister has taken the lid off the holier-than-thou attitude adopted by the BJP once upon a rine, leaving the party little leg to stand on.
But it also proves that there are no tight compartments separating gangsters and politicians anymore. Time was – perhaps up to the 1990s – when politicians might have depended on criminals to deliver the elections to them. Then, in the 1990s, they began to enter politics themselves, albeit as independents with the support of various political parties. Now, there are very few lines dividing a gangster from a politician, or even a cop personified by the case of former Police Inspector Sachin Vaze, who has been in custody in a case related to an alleged terrorist plot.
No political party can now claim that they have their noses clean, but in the recent game of thrones, the BJP seems to have shot itself in the foot by overreaching itself in its attempt to break or bully even non-political non-supporters, as was obvious from the Aryan Khan case, wherein it was clearly visible that the case was a frame-up and an extortion racket.
Time was when the BJP made accusations against Congress leaders like Sharad Pawar of hobnobbing with criminals, without being able to produce a shred of evidence to support their claims. But now, it is Pawar's partymen – not without his tacit support – who have systematically exposed the BJP, rendering it highly vulnerable, at least in Maharashtra.
The Game Has Gone to the MVA
One may presume that as it heads towards its second anniversary, the MVA will complete its full term. The battle is for a series of civic elections looming, where they wish to edge out the BJP before the general elections and deny the ruling party the advantage of power.
Already there seems to be a shift in people’s perception of the state leadership of the BJP, which has virtually been reduced to the person of just the former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis – which is why Malik is now targeting his vulnerabilities and attempting to render the leadership incapable of taking on the MVA.
With the state BJP leadership weakened, even Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has challenged the national leadership to topple his government and face the consequences. There are too many risks – Maharashtra has a strong opposition leadership currently ruling the state, its people are not as enamoured of saffron parties as in the Hindu heart, and there is a huge cultural and political divide between Maharashtrians and Gujaratis that could manifest in the personalities of the Pawar-Thackeray and Modi-Shah duos, which neither Fadnavis nor any other state BJP leader could overcome.
The national ruling dispensation already seems to have harmed much of its interests by targeting people close to Pawar, such as former Home Minister Anil Deshmukh. That is something Pawar does not intend to allow again.
In targeting Aryan Khan, the BJP failed to study his father's friendships, which are entwined with those close to the NCP leadership. It also failed to estimate Shahrukh Khan's capacity to withstand blackmail and pressure, and now seems to have got egg all over its face. The Aryan Khan case may have seemed like a straightforward drugs-related issue, but the political nuances have been noted by many people, which could disadvantage the BJP in the future.
The game, for the moment, in this power play has gone to the MVA. The match is yet to be decided. For the moment, the attempt is merely to level the playing field, and the national leadership appears to have played into the hands of both friends and foes. The match has well and truly begun.
(Sujata Anandan is Consulting Editor, National Herald, Mumbai. She tweets @sujataanandan. This is a an opinion piece, and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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