June 10, 2021 1:21:09 am
While the 30-minute one-on-one interaction between Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday caused a political flutter in the state, unruffled responses by Congress and NCP leaders indicated that the three partners in Maha Vikas Aghadi government had found a comfort zone that seemed improbable at the start of their innings in November 2019.
Senior Congress Minister Balasaheb Thorat dismissed all speculation over the Thackeray-Modi meeting, and called it routine, as meetings between the Prime Minister and chief ministers take place “year after year”. He said the “alliance is strong and intact”. NCP state president Jayant Patil said maintaining “cordial relationship with leaders of other political parties” was not new for the party, whose leader Sharad Pawar is known for his cross party contacts.
Shiv Sena sources said the meeting was planned in advance and the leaders of the alliance parties were also kept in the loop. They said it was necessary for the state leadership to maintain cordial relations with the Centre in order to resolve key issues.
Given the contradictions between Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP, the MVA coalition has faced questions about its stability from the time it was formed in November 2019. Several times, differences within the MVA have surfaced on issues such as the Citizenship Amendment Act and National Population Register, the three new farm laws, renaming of Aurangabad, and the reservation in promotion among others.
Recently, a purported “secret meeting” between NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Home Minister Amit Shah in Ahmedabad in March triggered speculation over possible political shifts in Maharashtra. Shah’s cryptic response that “not everything can be made public” added fuel.
But the MVA has outlasted all predictions so far. So much so, that last week, Thackeray even compared its longevity to that of the Sena-BJP alliance, which had lasted almost 30 years. “Like the Sena-BJP alliance, the MVA alliance will also last (for many years). As long as the motive in the minds of the three of us is clear and sincere, what is the problem in the MVA alliance remaining intact? If there were any differences in the MVA, the government would not have lasted for a year and a half,” Uddhav said during an interaction organised by Marathi Daily Loksatta.
Political sources said the real test of the unity of the MVA alliance might lie in the local bodies’ polls to 10 municipal corporations, including BMC, and 27 zilla parishads that are due early next year. These local bodies are termed “mini-assembly elections” in Maharashtra’s political circles and are seen as a report card of the government at exactly the midway mark of two-and-a-half years.
The formal alliances during the polls – or the lack of them – and the accommodations that political parties might make with rivals and allies alike on the ground, will decide the fate of the MVA going ahead, said sources.
If anything, said the sources, it is the state BJP that should be upset by the meetings in Delhi. The Prime Minister’s 90-minute interaction with Thackeray, in a delegation, and separately, “is a signal to the state unit of the BJP” to pipe down, the sources said.
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