From Jyotiraditya Scindia to Sachin Pilot, and now Eknath Shinde – the BJP’s model of 24×7 politics has a constant element of silently chipping away at possible rebels in states to keep the opposition governments on tenterhooks and take them by surprise.
The ploy succeeded in Madhya Pradesh in 2020 after Congress had the narrowest of victories in 2018, couldn’t work in Rajasthan in 2020 where the margin of seats was too much to bridge, and now seems to be clicking in Maharashtra with the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in real trouble.
It was the unfulfilled ambitions of senior Congress leaders in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan that the BJP used to fuel a rebellion. Shinde’s case is also similar but triggered by the grudge too that his party tied up with the Congress-NCP for power and kept giving it concessions against Shiv Sena’s core ‘Hindutva ideals’.
Scindia was upset with then Madhya Pradesh CM Kamal Nath for retaining both the CM post as well as the party state president chair, even though Scindia had a major role in the Congress win in the state and had also thrown his hat in the ring for the CM’s chair. The constant slighting of Scindia by Nath, unfulfilled promises by the new government, and Scindia’s old family bonds with the BJP finally brought him to the fold of the saffron party and brought down the Kamal Nath government in MP.
In Rajasthan, Sachin Pilot had a similar grouse with CM Ashok Gehlot after being overlooked for the top post and later also being stripped off the post of the party’s state president. BJP fuelled the unrest in the Congress ranks over two years but ultimately the margin of seats was too big for the BJP to bridge. Pilot stayed on in Congress but is still awaiting an assurance that he will be made their CM face in the next elections.
Eknath Shinde’s case is both of unfulfilled ambitions, as he desired the CM’s chair before Uddhav Thackeray became the opposition coalition’s choice, and his discomfort with the alliance with the Congress-NCP that has been an anti-thesis for the Shiv Sena for decades. BJP used Shinde’s old connection with its former CM Devendra Fadnavis, with whom Shinde had worked as a minister in the BJP-Shiv Sena government, to break him away.
BJP, while in the opposition in Maharashtra, has been constantly harping on Shiv Sena abandoning its ‘Hindutva’ plank of the days of Bal Thackeray to tie up with Congress and NCP to grab power. This resonated with Shinde, whose tweet on Tuesday post the rebellion spoke of sticking to ‘Hindutva’ and not compromising with the same for power. His constant sidelining in the government aggravated matters to the BJP’s advantage.
The surprise element in all such ‘political coups’ is also hard to miss. The sudden turn of events in Maharashtra comes while the Congress has been assembling all its troops from across the country in Delhi anticipating the arrest of Rahul Gandhi by the Enforcement Directorate and ahead of Sonia Gandhi’s questioning on Thursday.
The Congress is now scrambling to save its coalition government in Maharashtra and has deployed Kamal Nath for the fire-fighting. All this amidst BJP being quick on its feet to not just help Shinde move nearly three dozen MLAs to Gujarat without Maharashtra government getting even a whiff of it, but also move all of them to a far-off and more ‘secure’ Guwahati now.
This is now raising heckles in political circles over such attempts by the BJP in states likes Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand as well in the future. It goes on to show that the BJP works 24×7 as a political party and does not ever give up hope for power in opposition-ruled states.