Enlightened pragmatism in Maharashtra
The coalition that is going to govern Maharashtra represents an unexpected set of alliances. The Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress are strikingly different from one another in beliefs, values, priorities, goals and functioning, and that makes the new friendship notable in itself. But what is most startling is the history of the Shiv Sena’s long partnership with the Bharatiya Janata Party and their shared ideology, or shared in large parts at least. The two have had their tensions, but never a falling-out so severe as this time, which led the Shiv Sena to show the BJP that it was not needed. Their difference sprang from the supposed betrayal of the promise of shared governance allegedly made by the BJP; the dispute, therefore, was basically a clash of egos over the seat of power. A partnership born of anger on the one hand and a determined bid by the NCP and the Congress to keep the BJP out of power on the other may not have seemed too promising, but the support displayed at Uddhav Thackeray’s floor test, with 24 over the majority mark, indicates that there is no fragility in numbers. It is now up to the partners to work together for the government to last its term. And that is where the most rewarding outcome of the unexpected coalition lies.
To work together, the allies have formulated a common minimum programme itemizing certain promises, such as a loan waiver for farmers. But the CMP has in its preamble two references to secularism: the new government promises to uphold the secular values of the Constitution and also to evolve a consultative process to decide on issues that have affected the secular fabric of the country and state. This suggests, apart from the fact that the Congress has made its point in spite of being the ally with the fewest members, that there may be dawning an acknowledgment of the importance of secularism in holding not just the country but also its units together. The commitment to secularism is a pragmatic one, for without it the Shiv Sena would not have acquired the desired numbers. Yet it is an enlightened pragmatism that — if the promise holds — may open up the political horizon to newer possibilities for the Opposition in the first place, and induce deeper reflection on the political potential of secularism in the aftermath. The resistance to the BJP’s bid to wipe out the Opposition may thus lead to a value-based fight against the BJP’s politics of polarization.