Opinion

Three Much Of A Company

Year 1 done, but how does a trio tango? That too, Sena, Cong, NCP? The row over Aurangabad’s name is only a surface symptom of the egos and politics at play in Maharashtra.

Three Much Of A Company
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Doomsayers have been predicting the Shiv Sena-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government’s downfall since the day it came to power outwitting the BJP. Completing a year in November 2020, the Sena’s alliance with the NCP and the Congress remains tenuous. Ideological differences and fragile egos keep throwing up one controversy or another. The latest is over renaming Aurangabad as Sambhaji Nagar after Chhatrapati Shivaji’s son killed by Aurangzeb. The Congress opposes the move, saying it’s not part of the MVA’s common minimum programme.

This controversy came close on the heels of Sena leader Sanjay Raut ­comparing the Congress-led UPA to an NGO and demanding that NCP chief Sharad Pawar be made UPA chairman, a post held by Sonia Gandhi. In an interview, Pawar had said Rahul Gandhi’s leadership “seems to be lacking in consistency”. Adding to the Congress’s displeasure, the NCP recently “poached” 18 of its corporators in the Bhiwandi-Nizampur civic body. Congress leaders claim there is an attempt to sideline their party in the MVA, with the bigger two partners working towards an ­exclusive alliance. Local body polls later this year will be the test.

Former CM Ashok Chavan, who is PWD minister in the MVA government, does not believe the NCP and Shiv Sena are hobnobbing to push out his party—the Congress. “On the contrary, we may have to take a call on fighting as part of the MVA in the local body elections. Every district has a different political equation and we may fight on our own,” he says. Local Congress leaders are already talking about contesting on their own the 2022 elections to the Brihan­mumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), currently under Sena control. Making it clear that the Congress is not the Sena’s partner at the national level, Chavan adds that he doesn’t see “any problem in the alliance at the state level”.

Sena leader Arvind Sawant, a former minister in Narendra Modi’s cabinet, says renaming Aurangabad is not a new proposal. “In 1988, when the Shiv Sena took charge of the local body in Auranga­bad, there was a victory rally where Bala­saheb Thackeray announced that the city would be called Sambhaji Nagar. We have been referring to the city as Sambh­aji Nagar ever since. It is named after the great patriot and warrior, who was 32 when Aurangzeb killed him. If Delhi’s Aurangzeb Road can be changed to A.P.J. Abdul Kalam road, then why cannot Aurangabad be renamed?” asks Sawant, who believes CM Uddhav Thackeray will ensure consensus on the issue. “Differe­nce of opinion does not mean there is any threat to the government,” he adds.

Sudhir Suryawanshi, who penned Checkmate: How the BJP Won and Lost Maharashtra, agrees that there doesn’t seem to be any danger to the MVA ­government. “The alliance partners are addressing their own votebanks. There are a large number of Muslims and Dalits in Aurangabad, and AIMIM has 33 corporators. The Congress wants to recover its votebank. For the Shiv Sena, it is a matter of keeping its core constituency happy and so it keeps the issue alive,” he says. “The MVA government will last its term, but there is definitely a growing understanding between the Sena and the NCP that may lead to the Congress being pushed out of the ­alliance by the next elections.”

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