The dramatic transformation in Maharashtra politics gives us an intriguing glimpse into the state of our national politics, where we currently stand, how we got here, and where we are headed next.
Some interesting questions follow. Does ideology still matter in politics? One might think it doesn’t, if one looks at the rise of the Aam Aadmi Party.
However morally exalted, the promise of a corruption-free government and free this and free that do not make an ideology.
Not even when backed by framed portraits of Ambedkar and Bhagat Singh on the wall.
At the other end of the spectrum, the same conclusion can be reached by looking at the moves in Maharashtra: First, the Shiv Sena defected from the National Democratic Alliance to join ideological arch rivals, the Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress.
In the course of time, two of the three split and saw a majority of their MLAs defect back to the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge with party leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, DMK President M K Stalin, DMK MP T R Baalu, Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee, AAP National Convenor Arvind Kejriwal, AAP leader Bhagwant Mann, RJD Chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha leader Hemant Soren, Janata Dal-United leader Nitish Kumar and others at the Opposition leaders’ dinner in Bengaluru, July 17, 2023.
always been fungible with power.
The developments in Maharashtra politics over the past four years, however, are telling us that this era may now be over.
The Eknath Shinde Shiv Sena and the Ajit Pawar NCP may enjoy their short innings in power, but electorally and politically, they now represent political forces in terminal decline.
This could then spell the end of two mostly transactional political entities.
That the Shiv Sena and the NCP are almost entirely one-state parties does not matter as much as the fact that over the past 25 years, ruling coalitions in Delhi have almost always had one of the two as partners.
In the pre-Modi past, especially after the 2009 elections, many of us (this columnist included, so guilty by self-incrimination) were quick to hail the arrival of an ideology-free Indian politics.
The increasingly younger voter, we had concluded, had only one thought while hitting the button on the voting machine: What’s in it for me? Narendra Modi kept that in mind in his 2014 campaign, but his larger appeal was of hard, Hindutva-based nationalism.