Dire consequences of Maha betrayal could wreck future coalitions at the Centre.



Notwithstanding the pretence, the entire secular-liberal crowd is happy at the seeming discomfiture of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Maharashtra. Its obsessive animus against Prime Minister Narendra Modi blinds it to the broad daylight betrayal not only of a long-time ally, but, more importantly, of even a pro forma allegiance to secularism by the oldest party. In anything-goes-politics, Sonia Gandhi’s party is now in bed with the Indian Union Muslim League in Kerala and the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra. The two poles of communal politics thrive doing business with the self-avowedly secular Congress.

What next for Congress? An alliance with Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen? Now that the Grand Old Party has surrendered claim on its glorious tradition of steering clear of communalists of all stripes, probably the BJP can rightfully claim the secular space vacated by it. It is because it does not have to account for the stated positions of either the IUML or the SS, unless the Congress pretends its embrace has transformed the latter to SSS, that is Secular Shiv Sena.

But coming to the abnegation of faith and friends by the Sena, it is notable that there was little or no scrutiny of the claim that it was promised a 50:50 share in power, including in chief ministerial term. When, where, by whom? Despite repeated assertions by Amit Shah and others that Devendra Fadnavis will be Chief Minister of the BJP-Sena alliance, for the latter to claim the post was sheer bad faith. No alliance can survive such perfidious conduct.

Consider the dire consequences of the example set by the Sena and endorsed by the Congress-NCP. Were BJP to fall short of, say, 50 seats in the Lok Sabha poll, led by the Sena or another ally could well claim a go at the prime ministerial office. Again, given the sordid Sena behaviour, the number of MPs a constituent of the NDA had would be of no consequence, but what would be is its willingness to wreck the alliance from within and to cross over to the opposite side. One shudders at such a scenario at the Centre in the not-too-distant future, given the unholy embrace of the Maharashtra troika.

Also, it is odd that neither the Congress nor the NCP tried to hold Uddhav Thackeray true to the ground on which he had backstabbed the BJP and abandoned the Sena founder’s hardline Hindutva. If with 56 MLAs to BJP’s 105, the Sena could wreck the 30-year partnership, why couldn’t the wily Pawar insist on time-share on CM’s post 50:50? Or for that matter what stopped the Congress from demanding chief ministership given that it had 44 MLAs?

The secularists, for the sake of power, missed a great opportunity to defang the Sena tiger. But then who was interested in fighting rabid communalism when greed for power was all that mattered?

Meanwhile, it will be interesting to explore the charge that there was a capitalist conspiracy behind the Maharashtra upheaval. The Sena has all along been amenable to the moneybags. Remember, its founder, the late Balasaheb Thackeray, was a cartoonist in a Marathi daily. He got enormously wealthy once he undertook to break the hold of the Communist trade unions in collusion with the then state government. Nobody in his family has done a day’s honest work, but has come to acquire huge assets. In a way, a coalition of the corrupt has come to power in Maharashtra. The liberal-secularist crowd can join the festivities.

End this farce, Sadhvi and all

The renewed ruckus in Parliament over Sadhvi Pragya’s untutored remarks about Nathuram Godse underlines the hazard of inducting people in politics who are unfamiliar with political correctness and at the first opportunity tend to speak their mind. The Lok Sabha member from Bhopal is a misfit in politics where the first perquisite is to speak with a forked tongue, to say what one doesn’t believe in, to practise precisely that one rants and raves against.

In the current instance, is there anyone who bayed for the blood of Sadhvi Pragya who can claim to follow a fraction of the Mahatma’s teachings? None, of course. Hypocrites all, they shame Gandhi daily while paying mere lip service to him. Gandhi has become a totem, chanting whose name robotically they seek to profit from their unholy deeds. The new Maharashtra troika, we would be told, epitomises the Gandhian thought. What the Shiv Sena founder said about Gandhi and his physical assassin Nathuram Godse is a matter of public record.

Meanwhile, history cannot be frozen. Public discourse about leaders, dead or alive, cannot be written in stone and left for posterity to swallow uncritically. The problem with Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi is that politicians, having put him on a pedestal and anointed him a Mahatma, are loath to assess his role and contribution objectively without any preconceived notions of greatness, nay godliness. That Gandhi was all there in flesh and blood, that he too committed mistakes in his private and public life should not make him less of a Mahatma. His contribution in securing bloodless freedom from the colonial power is unsurpassable.

But having said that, Gandhi was no God. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson count among the greatest US Presidents. Yet, their contribution to the founding of the American Republic is not diminished when it is pointed that they owned the largest number of slaves of all the US Presidents. Godse committed a heinous crime. Even the barbaric rape and murder of lakhs of his countrymen did not mitigate the horrendous enormity of the murder of the apostle of peace.

But more than 70 years after the assassination is there a prohibition on a dispassionate assessment of Gandhi in the right historical context? Every leader of the freedom movement has been analysed threadbare, why not Gandhi. Remember it is kosher under the Constitution not to believe in God, for that matter, to be an agnostic, not to believe in any religion. Why then insist on a blind, unthinking deification of the Mahatma. No honest assessment would diminish his role in freeing Indians, yet he cannot emerge fully blameless. Meanwhile, it is good Sadhvi Pragya has said the right thing.