‘A bunch of unfulfilled souls’



Sharad Pawar is wont to describe the Congress party thus: it is like a zamindar of yore. When he used to sit on his terrace with a hookah he had the satisfaction of knowing that all that met his eye and far beyond belonged to him. Now all that belongs to him is limited to his compound wall which he can cover in three and a half steps from his verandah. Yet he sits on his terrace with a hookah and dreams of all that meets his eye and beyond belonging to him – once upon a time.

I always thought that description was very apt but somehow Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party in Maharashtra is itself limited to just a compound wall (Western Maharashtra) and feels the need to poach from the Congress’s increasingly declining resources.

Having netted a big fish in the form of the Shiv Sena’s lone MP from the Bombay-Thane region, Anand Paranjpe, the NCP got pretty ambitious and decided to mop up some discontents from the Congress. But despite a lot of temptations on offer, somehow the NCP has not been able to strike hard against it ally in government.

Now Congress leaders are simply mad at the NCP. So I was not surprised when former chief minister Vilasrao deshmukh, currently union minister for science and technology, recently described the NCP as a grouping of a bunch of “unfulfilled souls’’ (asantusht aatma) drawn from the Congress. Deshmukh has a way with words and when I got to think about it, I realised it could not have been put better – for everyone from Pawar to his nephew Ajit and most other leaders in the NCP are really a bunch of disgruntled Congressmen who did not get enough out of the Congress and thought they would make it on their own.

Unfortunately for Pawar, while he expected to decimate the Congress when he split the party in 1999, it is the Congress which still keeps him in power – unlike even Mamata Banerjee, he has been unable to form a government on his own in Maharashtra. And he, perhaps, never will.

But that does not stop the NCP from trying. This time, though, the party might have gone a bit far – although they have still not succeeded in engineering spectacular defections from the Congress, the small fry they have netted has now got the Congress’s back up and achieved the rare event of bringing enemies within the Congress (or rather rivals for the job of chief minister) together on one platform. Apart from Deshmukh, revenue minister Narayan Rane and minister for forests Patangrao Kadam have gone on the offensive against the NCP, promising a ‘vastraharan’ (stripping) of the NCP (Rane) and calling the party all sorts of unsavoury names (Kadam). But the best offensive yet has been from Deshmukh who was, in an earlier avatar, credited with cutting the NCP down to size and offering both Pawar and his own leaders a reality check on the actual powers of the NCP.

Pawar knows the Congress and its temptations well enough and so had once succeeded in taking the party for a right royal ride during the 2004 elections – he not only managed to diddle the Congress out of its due share of seats but also quickly snapped up those independents who had won with Congress support on the Congress quota at those elections. Thus the NCP artificially got its numbers up in the Maharashtra Assembly and it was only the hopeless prospect of an internecine war on his hands in the choice of a chief minister that compelled Pawar to concede the chief minister’s office to the Congress.

Deshmukh was ready for Pawar in 2009: he quoted figures to prove how the NCP had been steadily trailing the Congress at all elections between 2004 and 2009 and knocked the NCP’s demands down substantially – for the NCP greatly feared a breakup with the Congress, which would have meant it got reduced to single digits (it still did) in the Lok sabha and not very much better in the Assembly either.

However, temptation is what drives the Congress into the NCP’s arms again and again and this time round the prospect of getting their own mayor in Bombay is what compelled some leaders to tie up with the NCP for the civic elections – though once again it is the NCP which needs the Congress more. But this time that need is not simply just to win elections – it is more to decimate the Congress, so that at the next Assembly elections they can be assured of the office of the chief minister.

Once again, it is only Deshmukh who has spotted the danger and come up with an apt description of the NCP’s ambitions – flying high on borrowed gas with a bunch of elements not quite wanted by the Congress.

However, it is the mind games that the NCP plays with the Congress that is more dangerous: if it succeeds in convincing the Congress that it is on the downslide, the party is quite incapable of recognising that it is actually on a strong wicket and equally capable of giving away the advantage to the NCP.

Pawar was always a master at these mind games. But it is the new-found ability of Congress leaders to return the compliment that is interesting and delightful to watch.

May the best man win.

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  • Vinay

    So why is it the author worried about…that NCP is poaching congress…or happy that congress found better ways of mudslinging…ncp may not have govt of its own…but this way one day they will….then all that will be left with congress is people like deshmukh and rane

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    Anonymous Reply:

    Perhaps, she has got some of the facts off the target. In the recent municipal council elections, NCP has outperformed the Congress. We have to wait for the elections to the municipal corporations to make a reality check.

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  • Anonymous

    This blog is sponsored by Congress Party..Paid blog.

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  • Anonymous

    Zia Haq has proved his Islamiat once again. I expected a blog on Akbaruddin’s secular rant this time.

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    Abu Ahmed Reply:

    Akbaruddin is playing the voter-grabbing game, ably supported by the BJP. The BJP wants him to be treated harshly by the law, so do the MIM itself – the losers would be the Congress, while Jagan Reddy+MIM+BJP would gain the voters. And effective policing, very fast-tracked legal procedures are the only answer to the illiterate and semi-literate populace of our country.

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    Anonymous Reply:

    Want disintigration again?….Vote for Saffrons….pretenders

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    Sukhdev Reply:

    This guy would next be taking up SRK’’s cause of : They call me khan!
    Just because they are both Muslims! Time he took on anti-Hindu agenda of some of his communities leaders and their supporters!

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    Anonymous Reply:

    Read about Deity Sita….
    Ravan kinapped her…she was brought back safely but society pinpointed and she had to ask Earth to give her shelter from….whom?

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    Faulitics Reply:

    Huh?

    Arpan Reply:

    “his community’s leaders”!is every bigoted hindu politician or godman ranting on TV a leader of your community Mr. Sukhdev…do you take moral responsibility for the Delhi rape because the rapists are the same gender as you. Mr. Zia is as far removed from bigots like Owaisi as you and I are from fools like Mohan Bhagwat or imbeciles like asaram!if you dont incur the responsibility of defending them, Mr. Zia does not do so with regards to Owaisi either.

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    Anonymous Reply:

    wll, he did not have any Islamism in this…where is your complaint coming from

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  • pankaj#1

    Zia;
    After a long time, you have written a secular blog, and good one to boot it.
    It hits the nail on head.
    Congratulations.

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  • Swapna Sinha

    very well written…..

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  • Faulitics

    Hmmm. I thought Zia was a Muslim affairs writer for TOI. Hopefully he will write an article about muslim perspective on akbarrudin Owaisi’s rousing speech calling for genocide of fellow Indians based on religion. But I doubt Zia will take that one up.

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  • Faulitics

    By the way, Sia has written a tame article this time. No juice in it.

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  • Anonymous

    good blog after a long time.

    Proves you do have some sense… but tend to lose it due to communal reasons.

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