After the NCP leader Praful Patel ruled out any possibility of an alliance with the Shiv Sena, NCP Chief Sharad Pawar has made a complete U-Turn. It’s just a shadow of the great game ahead of the crucial 2019 General elections. In his statement, Sharad Pawar stated that, “All political parties, including regional forces, should unite against the BJP in the next elections. In recently held Palghar bypolls, if we add the votes polled by Shiv Sena, Congress and Bahujan Vikas Agadhi, it clearly is more than the votes polled by BJP. Across the country, BJP had faced defeat in nine parliament seats because of the unity of all like-minded parties.” Pawar did not directly named Shiv Sena but his message to bring all the regional parties together in the battlefield against the BJP conveys that NCP is ready to tie the knots with Shiv Sena in order to stop the BJP from coming to power again in 2019. A senior NCP leader, on the condition of anonymity, told Indian Express, “Politics is all about perceptions and you cannot have scope for untouchability. Pawar is trying to strengthen the anti-BJP forces. Sena is also a regional party and if it becomes a part of anti-BJP forum, what is wrong.”
But it seems like that the Congress is cautious of Sharad Pawar, and they don’t want Sharad Pawar to play such a proactive role in a united opposition against the BJP. It looks like the Congress party has rejected the proposal even without giving it a second thought. President of Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC), Ashok Chavan said, “We are ready for alliance only with like-minded secular parties. The Congress will not have any alliance with Shiv Sena and MNS.” Senior Congress leader and the leader of the opposition, Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil reiterated the same message. He said, “The Congress cannot compromise on secularism. Any political party, which does not subscribe to secularism, cannot be a part of our alliance.” For the Congress party, the Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) are not secular enough to have an alliance with. Secularism is just an excuse to play political untouchability. But one thing that Congress should keep in mind that beggar can’t be choosers.
Now the Congress is wary because any possible alliance between the NCP and Shiv Sena would undermine the importance of the Congress in the state. If Shiv-Sena and the NCP go to polls without the Congress then it would cause a lot of damage to the Congress party. Mamata Banerjee and KCR pitched for the federal front of regional parties minus both the Congress and the BJP. The Congress has already burned all its bridges with the MNS. The rise of MNS has been one of the major causes of the erosion of Shiv Sena’s vote bank. MNS on its own doesn’t win seats but it can be a game changer for any alliance if vote transfers take place successfully. They can play a very crucial role in many constituencies. Doing away with the MNS is one more strategic blunder of the Congress party. They have become habitual of committing strategic blunders again and again.
As far as Shiv Sena is concerned, it is left with two options. First, either it goes with the BJP. Second, go alone and make it a three-cornered contest in the state which will only further decrease the position of Shiv Sena in Maharashtra. In the recently concluded by-polls, Shiv Sena suffered defeat in the Palghar constituency at the hands of the BJP. Shiv Sena suffered defeats at the hands of the BJP in Maharashtra assembly elections, the BJP almost snatched BMC from them and the BJP have won most Municipal and Panchayat polls since 2014. So the first option is more beneficial for the Shiv Sena if it wants to remain relevant.