NCP Miffed, But Position Hazy

The NCP has to realise that ambivalence is seen as mere opportunism more than ideological - Sakshi Post

By Mahesh Vijapurkar

The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), like the Congress, is not a big political player in Maharashtra anymore, while the latter has been worse off across the country. However, the NCP seems to be caught between the sea and the deep sea in its home state. In this context, its “boycott” of the Thursday’s anti-BJP Opposition conclave adds spice to the speculation about its intent.

When it slammed the Congress for boycotting the midnight launch of the GST, it had a good explanation: “"All parties unanimously passed GST in Parliament. State governments of different parties had approved the rates," and then, “Now why so much fuss over the launch function?” That is, Congress too was a party to the final GST architecture, and it had no business to play games.

In 2012, when Pranab Mukherjee was the UPA candidate for President, the NCP had boycotted a cabinet meeting because Sharad Pawar was denied the number #2 position in the cabinet, only the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, to be ahead of him. That slot went to AK Antony, the Defence Minister. Then why the Thursday’s boycott of the Opposition parties?

Its official stance is that the Congress has needlessly accused it of lying that its two MLAs in Gujarat had voted for Ahmed Patel in the cliff-hanger election of Ahmed Patel. Fact is two of its legislators – that’s all it has in Gujarat – one has publicly owned up to voting for the BJP. The NCP had to rush Praful Patel, its senior leader to quell rebellion there though he had earlier sent out an ambivalent signal: NCP was no one’s ally.

The other reason is that in Gujarat, it was cleverly hedging its bets by letting each of the MLAs to vote for either parties – BJP or Congress - till it made up its mind. There are good reasons for it to be found at the state level in Maharashtra where it has to be seen as an opposition to BJP but not harm it so corruption cases against its leaders could be softened. It probably worries that Chhagan Bhujbal’s fate should not visit others.

A new angle is that the NCP may have gone into isolation of its own wont because, after Nitish Kumar’s successful migration away from the UPA or the Maha Gathbandhan into the arms of the Bharatiya Janata Party which he abhorred mainly because it had Modi leading it, why not the NCP? After all, it had announced the outside support to Devendra Fadnavis to keep the Shiv Sena in check but later withdrew it.

However, with 2019 not too far away, and Narendra Modi and Amit Shah on a gallop, the NCP would perhaps require to provide some clarity about where it stood vis-à-vis the BJP and the Maha Gathbandan. Its relationship with the Congress is fraught in Maharashtra, and the Congress has always been suspicious of the NCP. But that is unavoidable because NCP always sends out mixed signals, and this time, it has boomeranged.

Congress, very cleverly of course, took the first opportunity to cite the JD(U)’s one single MLA voting for Ahmed Patel as the swinger of fortunes of a beleaguered candidate, refusing to acknowledge that NCP had anything to do with the victory. Fact is, none can be sure of who among the three – the NCP’s pair and the JD(U) – voted for Ahmed. If all three had, the voting numbers would have been different.

However, the NCP has to realise that ambivalence, or blowing hot or cold, is seen as mere opportunism without a clear ideological line. When it opposed Sonia Gandhi as a foreign national, and then got in league with the party she led, and then see Rahul Gandhi as not ready as a leader – its early diagnosis of him has not been publicly announced as changed, if it has – and now stays away, it is not adding to clarity.

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