In Maharashtra, Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has been a strong opponent of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). But, Pawar’s decision to endorse the NDPP-BJP alliance in Nagaland with his seven NCP MLAs has raised some eyebrows inside the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA).
The Maha Vikas Aghadi, also known as the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA), is a state-level political coalition led by Uddhav Thackeray of the Shiv Sena (Uddhav faction), Sharad Pawar of the NCP, and Sonia Gandhi of the INC and it also has the support of the Samajwadi Party, PWPI, CPI (M) and several other political parties including Independent MLAs.
Narendra Verma, the in-charge of the NCP Northeast, stated in a press release that the decision to join the NDPP-BJP coalition in Nagaland was taken because the seven newly elected NCP MLAs wanted to be a part of the administration led by Neiphiu Rio.
According to insiders, Varma also told Pawar that if the NCP chose to sit in opposition in Nagaland, the party would face a split, with all Nagaland NCP MLAs potentially joining the BJP.
Thus, Sharad Pawar chose to allow his party’s MLAs to join the coalition as he realized it would be pointless to convince the latter to play the role of the Opposition.
This move comes at a time when ‘opposition unity’ is the buzzword for defeating the BJP in the Lok Sabha 2024 elections. As a result, according to sources, this move has not gone down well with the NCP’s allies.
Indian Express reported a top Congress politician in Maharashtra who remarked, “Politics is about perception. If the NCP has to compromise its ideological position in smaller states like Nagaland, how can we fight the BJP-Shiv Sena (Shinde faction) in Maharashtra?”
Notwithstanding the unhappiness among Congress and Shiv Sena (UBT) members, reports say that the senior leadership of the Congress and Shiv Sena (UBT) has asked its members not to openly criticize Sharad Pawar at this time.
How is the right wing in Maharashtra reacting?
Aside from the tension in MHA, the NCP supporting the NDPP-BJP alliance in Nagaland has provided the right wing in Maharashtra with an opportunity to call Sharad Pawar out for his ‘double standards,’ as Maharashtra BJP chief Chandrashekhar Bawankule stated, “On one hand you (Sharad Pawar) talk of secular alliance MVA. On the other hand, you join the NDPP-BJP alliance in Nagaland for power.”
Similarly, Republican of India Party leader Ramdas Athawale urged Sharad Pawar to back Modi’s administration and join the NDA.
“Sharad Pawar is an experienced leader; this will benefit NDA,” RPI leader Athawale stated during a tour of Ahid Beed and Dharashiv district. He also advised Sharad Pawar to support him in the state of Maharashtra and the Center as he did in Nagaland.
Meanwhile, State Water Supply Minister Gulabrao Patil, a Maharashtra Shiv Sena minister from Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’s faction, taunted the Nationalist Congress Party on Thursday while speaking in the legislative assembly.
He emphasized how the NCP has been condemning the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as a communal party, while in Nagaland it has extended support to the NDPP-BJP alliance government.
“Has there been any monetary understanding?” Patil inquired.
Ajit Pawar, the leader of the opposition, strongly objected to this, claiming that the BJP is in power both at the state and central levels and has the authority to probe into the matter.
Nagaland – another of Pawar’s ‘politics of unpredictability’
The NCP was the largest ‘opposition party’ in Nagaland, winning seven seats. Yet, Pawar chose to support the Rio government on March 8.
Whether it is a case of ‘if you can’t beat them, you better join them’ for the veteran politician or his party’s experience in mid-2014 in Nagaland when all the three MLAs of his party in that assembly, which also included NCP Nagaland unit president Imtilemba Sangtam, joining the then NPF-BJP alliance government, similar maneuvers have long been connected to Pawar’s six-decade political career.
NCP’s 2014 commitment to help the BJP in Maharashtra, and Pawar’s initiative to persuade the Congress, the NCP, and the state’s then-undivided Shiv Sena to create a three-party coalition government in Maharashtra in 2019, providing the MVA with the chance to rule for 2.5 years are few to cite.
When questioned about the NCP’s assistance to the BJP alliance in Nagaland, Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi Chief Prakash Ambedkar told Indian Express: “Sharad Pawar has taken an unconventional route in politics. He is a shrewd politician who knows what’s best for him and his party. He never compromised political interest.”
“Sharad Pawar is unpredictable,” a senior BJP official said, adding, “Nobody knows what he will do next. In 1999, he split the Congress to form the NCP. But soon after the elections, he formed an alliance government with the Congress. In 2014, he supported the BJP. In 2019, he formed the MVA to corner the BJP.”
The NCP, on the other hand, continues to characterize Sharad Pawar’s political movements as pragmatic.
In Nagaland, it is not politics but greed for power
However, in Nagaland, Pawar’s politics may not have been a major factor as another dismal chapter in Nagaland’s political history gets added by having an assembly without an opposition for the third time and for the second consecutive term.
“In Nagaland, it is purely a money game,” Shurhozelie Liezietsu, NPF President has said during one of his political campaigns. “There is no political ideology here,” he insisted.
The Naga political solution was in the spotlight prior to this year’s election, with CM Rio even going so far as to announce that his party, the NDPP, would not campaign for the Assembly elections. Nevertheless, that commitment was disregarded as the elections drew near.
The BJP leaders reiterated that the Centre would find a “solution” quickly and that they would deal with the demand for a separate state by the Eastern Nagas.
And today, the political parties and candidates giving their support to the NDPP-BJP claim the same thing: to find a political solution for the Naga people.
However, it is to be noted that one term of an opposition-less house in 2021 did not get the state any closer to the elusive Naga Accord; therefore, it is difficult to say how this time will be different.
The politicians will pay lip service to the vexed Naga political question, which most Nagas want to be sorted once and for all.
But many political commentators are of the opinion that the root cause of the opposition-less government in Nagaland is the sheer greed of the MLAs to join the government of the day and share the veritable pie of power.