Pawar’s power politics

Pawar’s power politics

Officers with impeccable integrity are oxymoron patronised by the media from time to time in its quest for spicy stories and ratings.

We always speak about dynastic politics in the country. Well, political dynasties are fully visible. If there is Nehru-Indira parivar at the apex, there is the Abdullah family in Kashmir, Badals in Punjab, Lals (Bansilal-Bhajanlal-Devilal) in Haryana, Netaji Mulayam in Uttar Pradesh, Suklas and Scindias in Madhya Pradesh, Pawars and Chavans in Maharashtra. Well, the list is long; it became a good enough subject for the Wall Street Journal from the stable of Media Moghul, Rupert Murdoch, to do an investigative report on how family ties and politics work in this country.

Over the past five decades, I noticed another phenomenon and it is political trade unionism. It is different from the politician–bureaucrat (Po-Bu) axis, which is built on the foundations of personal equations and trade-offs. It works like the freshly minted Kisan Vikas Patras, which are perfect vehicles to bring out black money. If you think a politician loses his/her clout once defeated, you are sadly mistaken.

As a witness to history in the works, I can tell you with no fear of contradiction that bureaucrats know better than you and me the reach of a politician, who happens to be in driver’s seat even for a short period. This is one reason why we have very few Ashok Khemkas in the country, who make a virtue of their self-immolation.

By their temperament, Khemkas are misfits in a bureaucracy which has perfected the art of being committed to the political master of the day even as long-lasting linkages are established with whoever matters on the political theatre. More often than not, these linkages are cut in the mould of old time feudal lords and their personal staff.

Officers with impeccable integrity are oxymoron patronised by the media from time to time in its quest for spicy stories and ratings.

Now to trade unionism among politicians, who have made it big at the national level particularly. It is not conventional unionism for sure. How it works? Well, it works on the simple principle of personal equations and by the fact that netas no longer have a permanent right over the power centre. This has virtually reduced shouting bouts in TV studio or the floor of a legislature to the theatrics of the absurd. If you want to see the personal equations at play, the best place is Parliament.

After delivering a fiery speech or a lung power display in the well of the House, the “leader” quietly walks across the aisle to the treasury benches, sits by the side of a minister, and conveys very gently “a request” for help. Mind you, it is not a favour sought, but just a request. How much weight it gets? My observation is that ministers generally honour such “request” as an investment; often they give more weight to the request of opposition members than their very own “aam –aadmi” colleagues.

No surprise, Netaji (the reference is not to UP’s Netaji – Mulayam Singh) says what he/she doesn’t follow, and does what he/she hasn’t said. Contradictions are, therefore, inherent in the appearance and behaviour of our “netas,” the latest entrant into the class, Arvind Kejriwal including. Politics in India is not ideology-centric. Nor is it a game of winning elections.

A consummate practioner of this art is the Maratha strongman, Sharad Pawar, who heads the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). He, in fact, runs a one-man consultancy and offers advice to rival politicians, who rush to him when survival is at stake in their outfits, BJP including, and to business houses from Ambanis to Bajajs, which are caught in a vortex of succession wars.

During the October ballot for Maharashtra Assembly, Pawar ran a campaign against Modi but announced support to the BJP in the government formation even before all results were declared. This Tuesday, days after the minority Fadnavis government had its way in the Speaker’s election and on the motion of confidence, he asked his cadres to get ready for a snap poll, saying, “It is not the responsibility of my party to provide a stable government in Maharashtra”.

Like in other walks of life, in politics also, there is no free lunch; but to set at rest any speculation that he is seeking return favours, he has declared that the “tainted” NCP leaders are ready to face probe by any agency. One of these worthies is his nephew, Ajit Pawar, whose name figures prominently in the irrigation scam.

Going by conventional wisdom, the Pawar Speak deserves to be treated like the Cautionary Signal Number Four of the Met Office before the onset of a very intense typhoon with very strong winds of more than 185 kmph. It should make the BJP rush to Matoshree, the Shiv Sena headquarters. Uddhav Thackeray will be happy, and Saamna will run a front page editorial, hailing how the power fix has revived the 25-year –old alliance.

This is not what is going to happen, notwithstanding Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’s announcement that he would set up a befitting memorial to the Sena founder, Balasaheb Thackeray. Modi-Amit Shah-Fadnavis did not walk out of alliance just because Sena had refused to give them a few extra seats. They left the Sena-fold to become the main player in Maharashtra; similar situation is emerging in Punjab to the dismay of Shiromani Akali Dal and the Badal family.

The big plus with Sharad Pawar is the element of realism, and a willingness to curb the temptation to spread the political wings as long as his turf is protected. Sonia Congress did not read the Pawar pulse; so its resolve to punish him for his sins even after running the government in Delhi and Mumbai with his help for two terms, paved the way for an unscripted Pawar–Modi alliance, which will remain unacknowledged. For how long? Till at least UP and Bihar go through their drill of rewarding Modi, and thus place the BJP as the true inheritor of the Congress party’s centrist mantle.

Uddhav Thackeray knows it and, therefore, says, “It is hard to trust Pawar”. On his part, the NCP supremo knows he can afford the luxury of his political unionism since turf security is more important than a few ministerial berths.

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