Congress, Uddhav Shiv Sena Fight To Wreck Maharashtra Alliance

By Sushil Kutty

Waking up to news that “the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) alliance is on the verge of collapse” over seat distribution for the Lok Sabha elections in Maharashtra and it is a familiar dirge heard ever since Shiv Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray’s path-breaking son Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray cut loose from his father’s legacy to cut a pact with the Hindutva-hating secular parties, the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party.

The MVA is in crisis. It failed as a government and now it’s failing as an alliance, begging the question, is there a flaw in Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray’s political character? The man lacks a fusion molecule, he comes unstuck from alliances and partnerships as easily as fake gum-fasteners.

‘UBT’ broke the Shiv Sena Alliance with the BJP; UBT made sure Eknath Shinde and his band of breakaway Shiv Sainiks had a field day. And, now, UBT is said to be behind the unrest roiling the Maha Vikas Aghadi. Uddhav’s early familiarity with NCP strongman Sharad Pawar is now an old flame. And Uddhav’s bad luck is rubbing off on Maha Vikas Aghadi. The latest is the Congress getting a taste of Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray’s wrecking ball.

Last heard, seat-sharing details were yet to be declared officially, but Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray’s Shiv Sena went ahead on Wednesday and posted its first list of 17 candidates for the Lok Sabha elections, not shy of declaring candidates for even those seats that the Congress thought were part of its share in the seat-sharing plan for Maharashtra.

Naturally, the Congress is damned upset, angry that the Shiv Sena (UBT) could take the Congress for granted and not give a damn about it. Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam, a former Congress state-unit president, is fit to be tied. He is asking the Congress high command to scrap the alliance with the Shiv Sena. “The arbitrary manner in which Shiv Sena (UBT) has announced candidates on 4 out of the 6 Lok Sabha seats in Mumbai, I have inputs that they are about to announce the name of the candidate on the 5th seat i.e., on North Mumbai as well – this has upset the Congress cadre,” Nirupam told a news agency.

Apparently, the leadership of the “Mumbai Congress” is very angry. The same people Milind Deora, who ditched the Congress and joined the BJP, had faith in. Sanjay Nirupam knows the kind of tinderbox Uddhav Thackeray is playing with. One spark and the whole shebang in Mumbai will go boom-boom. Nirupam has called on the Congress high command to take a stand against the Shiv Sena before it is too late.

It is another matter that Nirupam is also against the Shiv Sena’s candidate for Mumbai North-West, Amol Kirtikar, who is the son of MP Gajanan Kirtikar. Nirupam has alleged that the Sena candidate is corrupt and that the Congress caved in to Shiv Sena UBT pressure. “This has hurt Congress cadres. I am upset too. I am sad that our negotiators didn’t present the Congress party’s stand strongly. Shiv Sena (UBT) has attempted to suppress Congress,” Sanjay Nirupam said.

He is also talking of a “conspiracy” to finish the Congress party in Mumbai; that the Congress is now left with two options – one, break off the alliance with the Shiv Sena; two, have a “friendly fight with the Shiv Sena, field candidates for the seats on which we have a dispute and have not reached a solution.” Note that the adversary is not the Bharatiya Janata Party, but Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray’s Shiv Sena, the one which Uddhav is writing the obituary of.

The MVA comprises Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena, Sharad Pawar’s NCP, and the Congress party apart from a few smaller parties.. The three major parties have been having continuous talks for seat-sharing but haven’t to date arrived at a deal. And then Shiv Sena (UBT), the weakest link in the alliance, broke ranks. Now there is rift and the MVA is wobbling and has to correct itself if the opposition parties want to win Maharashtra, the state with 48 Lok Sabha seats, the most number after UP’s 80.

Sena (UBT) shouldn’t have unilaterally announced its candidates list. This is not alliance dharma and what does Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray want, other than the singular desire to defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party in as many seats in Maharashtra as possible? As things stand, the Congress is on tenterhook. Mumbai Congress chief Varsha Gaikwad wants a ticket and is “unhappy”. Sanjay Nirupam has given an ultimatum – “(I will) wait only for one week, I have all options open.”

And as if all this wasn’t enough, Prakash Ambedkar’s Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) has cut short its talks with the MVA and will go it alone with support from Maratha quota activist Manoj Jarange Patil. With that the battle lines are drawn in Maharashtra for the Lok Sabha polls. As far as the MVA is concerned, it seems the task is tough, And to think of the recent INDI-Alliance rally in Mumbai’s iconic Shivaji Park, what was all that bonhomie for? (IPA