Two years in power in Maharashtra has brought the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Shiv Sena much closer to each other than when it first established the government in the state. The third constituent of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, the Congress Party, has been pushed into a corner by this increasing fondness between the NCP and the Shiv Sena.
The meeting of NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Shiv Sena leaders Aaditya Thackeray and Sanjay Raut with West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee in Mumbai without Congress leaders is a strong indication of the latter’s ebbing weight in Maharashtra politics. In a setback to the Congress no Maharashtra leader of the party was extended an invitation by Mamata Banerjee. Miffed by the visiting CM’s angry references to the Congress, the party’s leaders were in unison that there could be no alternative to the BJP without the Congress.
Former chief minister Ashok Chavan, the minister for Revenue Balasaheb Thorat and the state president of the Congress Nana Patole through separate statements reiterated the importance of the Congress Party. “It is the Congress which keeps talking of going alone in the future polls. So why should they be angry about not being invited to be a part of any new anti-BJP alliance which will be formed?” said an NCP minister.
It is no secret that Pawar has been actively involved in the functioning of the MVA government. While the NCP and the Shiv Sena have been in unison since the tripartite alliance was formed, the discordant notes from the Congress camp have not gone down too well with the other two constituents. It is not just the West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee who felt that the Congress “just wastes its time making the BJP more powerful”, this is a sentiment that has found many takers across the MVA political spectrum.
Sources within the Congress told Outlook “slow pace is not always a steady pace, it can be destructive too”. While the NCP and the Shiv Sena have been aggressive and vocal on various issues – the more recent one being the Aryan Khan drug case – the Congress has taken a cautious stand. “We want to see our leaders taking a strong stand on issues. Our leaders work for themselves and their families not for the party,” said an angry Congress MLA. “Our leaders talk of the Congress fighting elections on their own, the question is do we have the strength to do so? Unless we have a miracle our party will keep declining,” said the same MLA.
Mamata Banerjee’s snub to Congress has also opened the floodgates of disgruntlement again. Despite a no-poaching agreement between the MVA constituents, many of the Congress MLAs are willing to shift sides. “There will definitely be a lot of movement from the Congress to the NCP and the Shiv Sena. Why be in a party which is on a self-destruction mode,” said another MLA to Outlook.
Mamata Banerjee’s efforts to establish a third front to take on the BJP and her meetings with Pawar, Thackeray and Raut, has buoyed both the NCP and the Shiv Sena as if giving them a new purpose. “Congress is the only viable alternative for India to protect democracy,” said Thorat.
Mamata Banerjee met civil society members Mahesh Bhatt, Javed Akhtar, Medha Patkar, Swara Bhasker among others in Mumbai on Wednesday evening.