The games allies play

A friend posted a query on my Facebook account a couple of days ago: what deal did the Shiv Sena offer the BJP to agree not to press for the post of Mayor of Bombay?

I thought it was more a threat to break the alliance than a deal. But now I believe my friend’s suspicion was right. The BJP has been very tempted to support Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena in the Nasik Municipal Corporation but the Sena is loathe to give Raj the chance to prove what he can do – or, more importantly, do better – in power. So the BJP demanded the post of Bombay Mayor in return.

But Bal Thackeray has been longer in the business than any of the ‘disrespectful’ younger lot of BJP leaders who he has been complaining about lately. It has not escaped his attention that BJP president Nitin Gadkari is pushing for a Lok Sabha seat from Nagpur and for this purpose he has tied up with Independents, including those from the Indian Muslim League, in a move designed to guarantee him the maximum non-saffron votes, while at the sme time consolidating on the Hindutva vote bank by keeping the Sena out of that alliance.

Now it seems the deal for calling off their potential alliance with Raj was a move for Mayor by the BJP. And that for not calling off the alliance was an offer to now include the Sena in it’s grand alliance in the Nagpur Municipal Corporation and even give up the post of Deputy Mayor in Nagpur to it.

Obviously, though the Sena might have been on slippery ground having posted a worse result than the BJP in percentage terms in the BMC, it has shown that it needs the BJP less than the BJP needs to cling on to the Sena for survival.

Ditto the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party. The NCP has been similarly attempting to swallow it’s ally whole for years now and Sharad Pawar had believed the two would decimate the Sena-BJP at the civic elections and “the next fight will be between the NCP and the Congress,” as he claimed in an interview to the Hindustan Times just before the polls. But even without the Congress, which was in a stupor soon after the poll results and could make no moves to save its turf against marauders, could do anything about it, Pawar came forth with stern instructions to his men about not going in for any deals on the ‘Pune pattern’. The name comes from his nephew Ajit Pawar’s move to keep his bete noir Suresh Kalmadi out of the Pune Municipal Corporation last time round by striking a deal with Shiv Sena. but five years later, it resulted in reduced strength for the NCP with the MNS eating into its turf and the Pawars in danger of losing their fiefdom.

Pawar, obviously, believes the Congress is the lesser of the two enemies for his party now needs the Congress to rule the PMC and he knows most certainly he cannot win the stAte again without Congress support.

I guess it is all right to try and improve party positions all around but despite years of watching their activities and developing my own cynical views about them, I still cherish the thought of friends really being friends and not stabbing each other in the back.

To that extent, I have discovered, the Sena and the Congress are similar: despite their problems with their respective allies, they are far more honest about their relationships than the NCP and BJP are about them.

No wonder they call the Sena the Congress’s best friend and I am convinced neither the BJP nor the NCP will ultimately succeed in gaining the upper hand over their own allies.

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