By: Sushil Kutty
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s “beat with shoes” remark did the trick. Thackeray’s hint that shoes are also to hammer sense into politicians and political parties gone astray worked. The Congress took the hint and stepped down from its high horse. Thackeray said people would “beat with shoes” those who talked of elections but didn’t offer solutions to people’s problems. Of course, this was in response to a likely move to replace him. He could have said “beat with stick” or “beat with belt”, but chose shoes to wear down opposition to him staying at the helm in Maharashtra for the full five-year term. The ‘jhutha’ can be persuasive. The slightest suggestion of shoes flying off the handle has a sobering effect on adversaries.
Women ask the question ‘jhutha kayega?’ quite often in their dealings with men, but oftentimes it’s politicians and political parties who get clobbered, just in case. Of course, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s target was not the opposition BJP, his message was for Shiv Sena’s partners in the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) alliance. The Congress remained behind the scenes from the time Uddhav Thackeray was selected Maharashtra CM, but there was always an inkling that of the three partners the Congress was the least happy with the arrangement. Now, a change in mind, and mood. The Congress sounded like it had its fill of Uddhav Thackeray. But just days after insisting that the Congress will contest the next state elections “solo”, giving the impression that Uddhav Thackeray could lose his CM-ship midstream unless things happened, the Congress did a volte face, stating that it would stand with Uddhav Thackeray till he completed his full 5-year term. The remark and the somersault were made by Nana Patole, the Congress party’s Maharashtra unit head, who also gave an assurance that the Congress will not create problems for the Maha Vikas Aghadi Government. The Congress high command must have asked Patole to back off.
Nana Patole had earlier said that when the MVA was formed, Congress president Sonia Gandhi had made it clear to the alliance partners that Congress was with them only to prevent the BJP from regaining power. “The Congress is standing strong with Uddhav Thackeray with all its might for all five years. There won’t be any problem (to the alliance) from the Congress,” Patole says now. “Our leader Soniaji has given that assurance. As state president, I am also of the same opinion.” It’s one of those twists in politics that the Congress and the Shiv Sena are partners in government. No one would have thought that the ‘secular’ congress and the ‘Hindutva’ Shiv Sena would have traded glances, much less shared a platform and formed a government together in alliance. That said, neither party want to contest an election in alliance with each other. The next time the two parties will face-off will be in the upcoming civic body elections. The Congress has given an assurance that contesting against each other will not hamper the Maharashtra alliance. Looks like the Congress party gambled, and is now reconciled. It would have liked to head the Government in Maharashtra and probably even thought of making a bid, but it appears like Uddhav Thackeray won the ‘Who will blink first?’ contest.
In any case, the Congress is in no shape to face the electorate again, so soon after the last assembly elections. And it’s not because of the coronavirus pandemic alone. The Congress party’s present and immediate future is tied to the fortunes of the MVA, specifically to that of the Shiv Sena because Shiv Sena President Uddhav Tackeray heads the MVA Government, and no matter how it’s looked at, the Shiv Sena is willy-nilly the senior partner of the two. Also, the Congress shouldn’t be trying to bring down its own government. The MVA still has a long way to go and CM Uddhav Thackeray should be given a long rope, at least so long as Covid-19 continues to run riot in Maharashtra. Experts are talking of a third Covid wave by October or before that and Maharashtra is still recovering from the ravages of Covid waves 1 & 2. What’s the Congress going to gain from replacing Uddhav Thackeray with Nana Patole? Thrusting another assembly election on the Covid-ravaged is fraught with risk. Congress should have its eyes fixed on 2024. Getting beaten with shoes is not the option. Nobody wants ‘Jhutha Maaro Saalon Ko’ to trend against him, or ‘it’. (IPA Service)