Are Centrist Mutating?

A unique political game was played in Maharashtra, the centrist (Congress and NCP) and the rightwing (Shiv Sena) formed an alliance to outbid another rightwing (BJP/RSS). To many, it was perplexing, to me it is an antecedent event. Political pundits and social-political science luminaries thought it as bizarre. To me this is not. It is expediency to camouflage and change identity and reemerge as a political chimera of the dominant political ideology. In India and especially Maharashtra, all political parties will hence forth, dawn a saffron hue to camouflage their identity to match the political currents flowing within the country.

This phenomenon will gradually pervade across national boundaries to counter the upsurge of right wing radical dominance. In life sciences, it is called ‘Adaptation’, in mountaineering, it is called ‘Acclimatization’ and in sociology, this is called evolution and Darwin calls it ‘Survival Of The Fittest’.

Word Count – 905; Reading time – 3 to 4 min.

A recent upsurge in right-wing dominated nationalistic sentiments disrupted existing models in several countries. However, an experiment was played in Maharashtra, India that would possibly be a harbinger to an emerging model wherein the marginalized centrist forces may possibly adopt this model and make a comeback.

Reemerging Centrists.PNG

In the state of Maharashtra, all right-wing parties (BJP and Shiv Sena) made pre-poll alliances; similarly, the centrist parties (Congress and NCP) went into a similar alliance formation with an agreed common program. However, immediately after the elections, the rightwing alliance broke down and one of the right-wing ultra-nationalistic party forged an alliance with the centrist parties to form Government.

To many, this was strange and to the BJP, it was shocking. Political pundits thought it to be opportunistic; however, I differ with the Political Pundits and find it as an emerging pattern. I made attempts at deciphering the dynamics driving the formation of new alliances. Identifying newer patterns in alliance formation does not mean I subscribe to this newer model. Identifying models only helps us understand and mature our perspective. It is upon individuals to make conscious choices and influence their polity. The events in Maharashtra may be considered as a prelude to one of these patterns that are likely to influence the formation of future alliances, not alone in India but across the globe.

Saffronization of the polity:

There is a prominent Hindus wave in India. Most so-called centrist parties never realized this emerging phenomenon. Here before, safeguarding or protecting the cause of Hindu believers was politically incorrect. However, the majority of the Hindu population felt that they were neglected. That frustration. was tapped by the BJP. The centrist parties knew this pent up frustration, despite they kept away from addressing this growing frustration.

Electoral impact:

The electoral results gave BJP a resounding victory. Realizing this, most leaders from centrist parties realized it is time to disrobe their white outfit (a congress era vestige) and wear a saffron color outfit.

To Survive, ‘Change is a Must‘:

Simile apart, most centrist parties are now, not averse in taking up the ‘Hindu cause’ for their survival. It will not be surprising to see this becoming a nationwide phenomenon. For the Sena, to avoid being squashed under the umbrella of a nationwide Hindutva outfit was sure death. To survive, it had to be stronger than the big guy, BJP.

The Vantage Point:

Sena’s survival sentiment was very well tapped by NCP supremo, and he supported their demand for Chief Ministership and thus widened the rift between the political bedfellows of over 25 years.

For the BJP, the time had to come for separation from Sena and show their might and dominance in Maharashtra. BJP would have diluted Sena inevitably. However, NCP infused and enthused Sena for CM’s position. This hastened the emergence of the two parties divorcing and arriving at this crossroads. After establishing themselves nationwide, BJP doesn’t need Sena to hang on in Maharashtra. Thus not succumbing to Sena’s demands was strategically natural, not a principled stand, neither was it a matter of Amit Shah’s temper.

Congress had learned it hard-way the saffronization is marginalizing them. It had to change the color of its outfit and an alliance is a step towards that change to win the Hindu heart.

Power Provides Petrol:

NCP stalwart spotted the right time to flex his shrewd muscles. The recent exposure of Praful Patel was a harbinger of the attacks to come. Flexing power and keeping enemies at bay was a crucial need.

For NCP and Congress, staying out of power for a long time meant an erosion of their coffers. Ruling a rich state helps to refill those coffers. Strange ways of politics but a political party cannot survive without ruling (and corruption) for long. Both Congress and NCP had to snatch this opportunity.

Thus Saffronization, Electoral Impact, Political Survival, Individual and Coalition Dynamics and the need to recharge coffers dominated the formation of this newfound alliance. To me, these are not opportunistic bedfellows. These are emerging patterns of alliances in the post-right-wing dominated world.

(Shashank Heda, Dallas, TX)

Maharashtra: The unravelling of India’s BJP and Shiv Sena alliance

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