Soon after the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) lost to the UPA-I, the Telugu Desam Party had deserted the flock and smaller parties had gone quiet, Bal Thackeray was asked a question by a newsman then: ”Do you think NDA exists?”
He hedged his answer. ”It does… as a concept, but in reality, some have left. When we are closer to power again, they will all come back,” he explained. Power is all, he meant to say.
What Thackeray had left unsaid was political alliances can be opportunistic, like the momentary marriage of the Trinamool Congress and the Samajwadi Party, where the intent, by hindsight, was to corner Mamata into an embarrassment and push Mulayam into the Congress’ good books over the issue of who ought to be the President.
Is such an opportunism hidden in Bal Thackeray‘s mouthpiece – less the party’s, more his – statement that if you are without a sword, it is better to sit out a battle than get egg on the face by propping up a candidate to oppose Pranab Mukherjee‘s journey to the Rashtrapati Bhavan?
What is the possible opportunism?
Is it the hope that Manohar Joshi, former Chief Minister, former Lok Sabha Speaker, and former Rajya Sabha member is fielded for the post of Vice President, now occupied by Hamid Ansari? An outside shot, perhaps, but something Joshi himself is said to be dreaming of. That is enough reason for the Shiv Sena to remain neutral to the extent of not attending the NDA meeting where options were discussed.
The realisation of this hope is fraught in the sense the Congress-led UPA-II may not necessarily agree to a Shiv Sena nominee. When Abdul Kalam was an untouchable for the UPA-II because he was once the NDA’s successful nominee, how could a Sena man do?
Unless, of course, the intent of the UPA-II strategists is to help break the ties between the two parties, the Sena and the BJP, which are together in Maharashtra. This makes, actually, for a good stratagem akin to the deployment of Mulayam Singh Yadav to neuter the aggression of Mamata Bannerjee. As they say, in politics, everything is possible, especially the underhand deals.
This would make eminent sense for torturing an already floundering NDA which was left clutching at straws to find a nominee and retain its self-respect which is already in tatters. Its rhetoric does not match the claims, leave alone its deeds and the ignominy that despite TMC’s lead in promoting Kalam’s candidature, the NDA’s much delayed overtures were spurned.
Amid the confusion – Nitish Kumar hearing a different drummer on Narendra Modi‘s possible candidature for prime ministership in 2014 or earlier, BJP’s own dilemma and differences over Modi’s primacy in the party, the different voices from every constituent and potential constituent like the AIADMK – Congress backroom artists can use Manohar Joshi.
That would force the NDA on the backfoot. After all, it is not keen on Ansari for the visible role he played on the Lokpal bill in the Rajya Sabha and the NDA would like to see him go. But by propping up Joshi, UPA-II can win peace in the Upper House and thank the Sena. All this sounds absurd, but that is what Indian politics is, isn’t it?