The hardest thing in life, as someone said, is to know which bridge to cross and which to burn. If the BJP hopes to repair the damage to its reputation by the churn of political events in Maharashtra post-October 24, three solemn pledges must be intoned: One, burn to ashes its 30-year-old bridge with the Shiv Sena and avenge as early as possible its betrayal of the Hindutva cause with the use of every political weapon just short of the illegal; two, never to use the services of a vicious and venal enemy, be it party or person, unless absolutely sure of turning the tables on the foe, and; three, most importantly, never to stretch the outer limits of power vested in Constitutional authorities like President or Governor to the extent that it impinges on their self-respect. All the more when they are loyal soldiers of the party. The Night of the Long Knives ought to have left the enemy gob smacked, permanently.
Let’s first dissect the BJP’s self-inflicted wound. Even by its own standards of hauteur and over-confidence, it is astounding how the party snatched a humiliating defeat from the jaws of victory (moral, if not electoral), thereby giving a backstabbing ally and a bunch of corrupt opportunists the chance to don the mask of the virtuous.
Having declined Governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari’s invite to form the government on 10 November due to the obvious lack of numbers, all that was expected of Fadnavis and Co. is cool their heels and allow the ignoble constituents of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) to be hoist with their own petard. Either the illicit menage a trois would have failed to climax in a common minimum program (confabulations for which stretched over 10 days) or crashed under its own weight after a short stint in power, as in Karnataka.
In whose mind was first conceived the foolhardy plot of reaching out to the unscrupulous Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) honcho, Ajit Pawar, to provide the missing numbers is an abiding mystery. More’s the pity that those behind the masterplan thought they could pull the wool over the eyes of his crafty Uncle Sharad whose record of double dealing and striking Faustian bargains would have won him the admiration of Machiavelli.
Even if the idea was sourced from Delhi, it ought to have been sidestepped. Most, however, are inclined to point their fingers in the direction of the Sangh’s blue eyed boy, Devendra Fadnavis (DF). The general impression is that for all his amiability, incorruptibility, and self-avowed competence, DF had come to enjoy the office he filled for five years. That the BJP pitched its entire campaign around the invincibility of the Narendra-Devendra duo could not but have nurtured in him dreams of further ascension in the party’s hierarchy. The hasty manner in which he encouraged defections from the NCP and Congress, rewarding even the corrupt with tickets, was disconcerting. It is poetic justice that most were trounced at the hustings.
That DF had no qualms on accepting the crutch proffered by the very man he had threatened to pack off to jail over the Rs 70,000 crore irrigation scam tells its own story. Blinded by his desire to pip the MVA in the race for power, he succumbed to the call of credulity. Otherwise there is no way he could have readily believed that the entire stable of 54 NCP MLAs had shifted their allegiance from uncle to nephew without the former batting as much as an eyelid. The first chinks in character usually show up when ambition dupes reason. The high pursuit of Hindutva cannot afford it. Let’s hope DF has learnt his lesson, and will not repeat the botch-up.
Vivisecting the Sena’s sabotage is an easier task. Signs, warnings of the inevitable break were there all along, but wilfully ignored. Given its fast depleting footprint in Maharashtra after the demise of its founder Balasaheb Thackeray, outright refusal to accept the changed political realities, and the almost daily insults and invectives shot through the columns of its plebeian mouthpiece, Saamna, the BJP was a sitting duck for betrayal. The Sena had usurped the space of the Opposition from within the treasury benches, rendering both the Congress and NCP listless watchers of the endgame, something which caught even them off-guard.
Having broken its three-decade old compact with the BJP, the swiftness with which the Sena has surrendered its identity as a fellow torchbearer of Hindutva in its quest for the chief minister’s chair begs the question: was mollycoddling Uddhav Thackeray worth it? Was its ideological affinity to the cause ever more than skin deep after Balasaheb? More importantly, should the Sena ever again be trusted? The answer is blowing in the mind. The new colors of Uddhav’s kurta hold the clue.
Ideally, the BJP should have fought the 2019 assembly poll just as in 2014: independently. This way it would probably have ended up winning at least 15-20 more seats which were farmed out to the Sena. Even if the party had reached its earlier tally of 122, it would have been in a better position to bargain.
Now that the hurly-burly has been done, the BJP should reconcile itself to going solo. It has the muscle and the resources. The Sena’s treachery will have to be hammered in from every public podium. Not just as pre-poll ally, but also to its core ideology: Hindutva. Revenge is best served cold.
Shivaji Maharaj, the icon the Sena swears by, would have adopted cruder methods. The BJP, on its part, can begin strategizing by heeding Sun Tzu’s time tested counsel enshrined in the Art of War: “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
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