Committing adultery to grab power is a political sin. And one always pays for one's sins — in this life or the afterlife. In Greek mythology, the sins of the fathers visit upon their children. According to Indian Karmic belief, you reap your sins in your next life. In politics, you pay for your sins in the next elections.
Politics makes strange bedfellows. Sleeping with one’s enemies is not uncommon in Indian politics. As Ronald Reagan after becoming President of the US quipped: "It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first."
Indeed, power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.
The BJP was stunned by the audacity of its pre-poll alliance partner Shiv Sena, which dared to go on its own when it felt betrayed. It was ready to divorce and even ready to go to bed with an old foe.
While the BJP nurtured an exaggerated notion of its own invincibility, it little realised that it was now a tad emaciated. The party underestimated the strength and determination of its former ally to outmanoeuvre it.
When Devendra Fadnavis threw in the towel the first time and declined to form the government on being invited by the governor before he invited others, it ridiculed the Shiv Sena of trying to flirt with its sworn foes — the NCP and Congress. And when the governor asked the Shiv Sena to form the government and next offered a chance to NCP, the BJP attacked viciously the coming together of disparate parties.
But on being offered in unseemly haste a second chance to Devendra Fadnavis to form a government by the blatantly partisan governor, it forgot its jibes against Shiv Sena and had no hesitation in tying the knot with renegade NCP leader Ajit Pawar who was suspected by many to be a decoy and a honey trap laid by the shrewd and wily old warhorse Sharad Pawar. It turned out to be a classic case of marrying in haste and repenting at leisure.
BJP also did not remember its own unholy wedlock with the PDP led by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed in 2015, a known sympathiser of Kashmiri separatists and militants, who released separatist leaders serving sentence in jail, right after his swearing-in as the CM without consulting the BJP, its then partner in the government.
Politics is not only the art of the possible but also the art of the impossible. You have to live now to fight another day.
The Shiv Sena beat the BJP at its own game. The Shiv Sena supremo Uddhav Thackeray did not blink and he lived up to the old adage — “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog."
Charles De Gaulle said that at times, "In politics it is necessary to betray one’s country or the electorate. "Both the BJP and Shiv Sena can be accused of betraying its electorate.
The NCP and Congress, which were waiting on the wings, seized the day and bested the BJP, which had rubbed their nose in the mud by fair and foul means in the past. BJP had brushed aside all scruples to grab power in other states, most recently in Karnataka and earlier in Goa.
The Opportunity Before Shiv Sena
Now there's an opportunity for Shiv Sena to redeem its pledge to the electorate. It has a chance now to atone for and make amends for its sins. Or it will surely pay for it in the next elections.
First, the party must abjure its politics of religious bigotry, divisive vote bank politics of inflaming the communal divide between not only Hindus and Muslims but between Marathas and non-Maharashtrians. Shiv Sainiks were raised on the staple of creating insecurity in the minds of resident Mumbaikars and in native Maharashtrians, invoking its pernicious 'sons of the soil' credo and sowing fear in the immigrant workers from other parts of India, driving a wedge between the various communities who had integrated into the economy of Maharashtra and Mumbai in particular.
The immigrants from other states of India who had settled over the decades in the dazzling metropolis, seeking jobs and dreams — be it in Bollywood, business, stock markets, or as taxi drivers and security guards and so forth —had all become the warp and woof of the social, cultural and economic landscape of that truly vibrant and great city. It is that multi-cultural mix and adventurous spirit of the local population melding with the immigrants that had made Mumbai the business capital of India going back centuries.
It was not only a murderous and destructive policy that Shiv Sena espoused and pursued that would have ruined Maharashtra, by tearing the very fabric of society, it was also a very pig-headed self-destructive policy.
Even a greenhorn of politics can see that development of a state and the harnessing and realisation of the finest impulses of one’s people — in economic wellbeing, art and culture — in the widest sense of those words are possible only if there's communal harmony and peace. To remember Ralph Waldo Emerson who said of America during its days of slavery and the height of its venal politics a hundred and fifty years ago, "Trade is a plant which grows wherever there's peace, as soon as there's peace, and as long as there's peace."
Mind The Electorate
And the electorate is unforgiving when it exercises its franchise during elections. Though it may seem it did err now and then in hoisting the wrong party or an immoral politician to power, from a sufficient distance and height it becomes evident, that it has an unerring and uncanny instinct and boots out parties and people who come to power who are blinded by greed and power and rule by extremes. When ruling parties divide societies by appealing to baser instincts, employing religious bigotry or wooing religious and caste minorities through appeasement politics, or brazen corruption and venal politics of the worst kind by betraying the mandate of the people by switching parties, the people have taught them a lesson by stripping them of their power.
Now Uddhav has an opportunity, by sheer good fortune that has catapulted him to power to lead his state to make a difference by governing like a statesman. He should learn not only by the mistakes of the past but also from the worthy example of leaders like the late former Prime Minister Vajpayee who led his minority BJP by genial bonhomie, generosity of spirit, compassion and compromise and accommodation, by managing a coalition of 25-odd parties that did not all share the same ideology of the BJP.
There are pressing issues in Maharashtra — the farmers’ distress and crisis, corruption in government including Mumbai Municipal body, largely ruled by the Sena, the terrible infrastructure of Mumbai, and the poor economy of the state, which is suffering from inequity, and the Naxal problem mishandled by successive governments.
Uddhav was asked if he was giving up his Hindutva plank in view of his tie-up with secular parties. He said very shrewdly, “No. I will follow the secular ethos and principle laid down in the Constitution.”
He must be reminded that Ram and his Ram Rajya were extolled because Ram was a just ruler and peace prevailed in his kingdom. He governed and lived by the tenets of the Sanskrit hymn
Om Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah, which means “May all be happy, may no one suffer, let there be peace, peace, peace."
Uddhav Thackeray must take inspiration from Ram Rajya and take a solemn pledge to rule justly and fairly upholding the rule of law and the spirit as enshrined in the Constitution and redeem himself.
GR Gopinath is the founder of Air Deccan.