In the process, Sonia-led party also portrayed itself as an ‘unreliable’ ally
The Congress party’s reluctance in extending support to a Shiv Sena-led alliance in Maharashtra is understandable, but not the brinkmanship over government formation with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
When NCP leader Sharad Pawar met Congress chief Sonia Gandhi a little over a week ago, Ms. Gandhi is learnt to have told him that the Congress had ‘ideological’ issues in supporting a party that had quite literally grown out of anti-Congressism.
After all, for three decades, the Sena was an ally of the BJP. Their articulation of aggressive Hindutva and nationalism – that often manifested in asking Muslims to go to Pakistan if they don’t measure up to Sena’s standards – could not only be a matter of discomfort but also embarrassment.
Not surprisingly, former Defence Minister A.K. Antony, who was the only other senior leader present in the Sonia-Pawar meeting, is believed to have opposed any tie-up with the Sena.
As is the norm with the Congress’s old guard, the party chose to remain silent about the meeting but selectively leaked the “reservations expressed by the Congress president”.
On a day when Mr. Pawar refused to categorically rule out the possibility of a Sena-NCP-Congress alliance, some media outlets categorically said: Sonia Gandhi rules out any alliance with Sena.
If so, why did the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the party’s highest decision making body, meet to discuss government formation? And that too on a day when the lone Sena Minister in the Union Cabinet, Arvind Sawant, resigned from the government to signal the party’s severance of ties with the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
There could be two arguments: one, the Congress was forced to come into the picture because the BJP couldn’t form a government and no one else can without them. Two, an overwhelming majority of the newly elected lawmakers of the Assembly want the party to support the Sena to form a government.
If the party’s leadership wanted to listen to the MLAs, they could have announced support to the Sena immediately. And if Ms. Gandhi had ruled out support to Mr. Pawar, as was leaked earlier, it could have simply refused to play along with the NCP in flirting with the Sena.
The signature-style brinkmanship of the Congress not only let down the NCP, portrayed itself as an ‘unreliable’ ally but also seems to have forced President’s Rule.