More Woes Rock Maha Alliance Boat

It was an alliance that not many believed would last; a marriage of convenience, a coming together of unlikely partners whose only aim was to keep the BJP behemoth away from the seat of power.

Bound by different ideologies, the three cogs of the Maharashtra wheel — NCP, Shiv Sena and Congress — have had their share of ups and downs but of late, something seems amiss. Add to it the hectic parleys ahead of the BMC polls and the chinks in the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) armour are difficult to miss.

The latest flashpoint between allies Congress and Shiv Sena is the decision to reserve over two-thirds of the wards currently held by the Congress in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) for women ahead of the upcoming local body polls.

While the two parties are partners in the state government, they are on opposite sides of the spectrum for the local polls. The Shiv Sena has dominated the BMC — the richest civic body in India — for over 25 years. In comparison, the Congress has repeatedly put up a poor show, with its worst rating in the last civic body elections in 2017.

Out of a total 236 wards in the city, the Congress currently has only 29 elected corporators, but 21 of these wards have now been reserved for women, ThePrint reported.

On Sunday, former Union minister and Congress leader Milind Deora also expressed his displeasure and said that political alliances cannot be “one-sided”.

Tagging the party’s central leadership — Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra — Deora tweeted that the “greatest casualty” of the BMC’s ward reservation was the Congress, “despite being an MVA ally”.

The Shiv Sena, however, has denied the allegations and said the decision was taken via a lottery system in line with the State Election Commission’s notification.

Reining in NCP’s ambitions?

The third partner in the alliance, Sharad Pawar’s NCP, is known to be the big brother. While Pawar has repeatedly denied allegations of subtle manoeuvres, it is an open secret that he holds the remote control to the MVA government.

This was further cemented by NCP minister Dhananjay Munde, who created ripples by claiming that “the next chief minister in Maharashtra will be from NCP”.

As his statement gained traction — coming just as the government completes two-and-a-half years — NCP MP and Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule said, “It’s not new. Every party feels they should have their CM.”

When the three parties cobbled together an alliance after a fall-out between the BJP and the Shiv Sena, the NCP cornered the largest share in the ministry by securing 12 cabinet and 4 minister of state (MoS) berths, the Sena bagged 10 cabinet and 4 MoS positions while the Congress got 10 cabinet and 2 MoS posts.

Even as it gave up the top post to the Sena for Uddhav Thackeray, many believe that Pawar maintains a hawk eye over developments. This could be another reason why the NCP has never openly batted for the CM’s post.

Insiders in the NCP, however, say there is no need to destabilise the government and steamroll over Thackeray since Pawar already enjoys a free hand.

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