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Of Friends & Foes

Monday, May 23, 2016

Little would have Eknath Khadse imagined that the biggest slur of corruption would have hit him in his long political career. In politics the traditional terms of friends and foes does not always hold true. There are different connotations to the terms.

Your best friend may be your worst hidden enemy. So also your bitterest enemy may offer you a helping hand in your hour of crisis. Often the bitterest rivals can join hands together to dump what might be their common enemy.

But what is happening within the cabinet headed by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has raised quite a few eyebrows. There is no external threat to his government as the opposition simply does not have the numbers to topple his government.

One by one most of his cabinet colleagues be it Vinod Tawde, Pankaja Munde, Babanrao Lonikar, Girish Bapat and Eknath Khadse have been caught in a swirl of controversy and allegations. It was only in the case of Pankaja Munde that Fadnavis appeared to have stood besides her, but only just.

The feeling then was and even articulated then by her estranged cousin Dhananjay Munde the leaks against her were emanating from the top floor of Mantralay. Khadse by far is now the senior most parliamentarian in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

It was well known during the government formation in October 2014 that Khadse had sulked at the party choosing a much younger Fadnavis for the top job. Even Pankaja did not hide her desire to occupy the hot seat. Against this backdrop these swirl of allegations are only pointing fingers in one direction.

After having occupied the top job many a seasoned politicians have tried to neutralize potential rivals mostly with the help of "friends" in the opposition. The leaks are planted in such a manner that it does not immediately raise eyebrows, but for a seasoned politician reading between the lines is an essential art to grasp in order to survive.

After the Assam elections and repatriation of union minister Sarbanand Sonowal as the next Chief Minister is likely to trigger off a big shake-up in the BJP both at state level and at the national level. Indications are that Union Minister Nitin Gadkari might be sent back to Maharashtra, while Fadnavis might well be brought to the Center.

There are shake-ups due in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh which are to be poll bound soon. Keeping in mind the ensuing BMC elections, 2017 Presidential elections and the 2019 assembly and Lok Sabha elections, the BJP needs a person like Gadkari who makes no bones about his dislike for the Shiv Sena. Moreover, a chief ministers post commands more stature, respect and power in Delhi, not just in the state.

Whenever this change of guard does happen, one thing is certain that it will leave a bitter after taste in everyone's mouth. At the fag end of his tenure as Chief Minister in 2003, late Vilasrao Deshmukh was taken aback at seeing what he believed to be his most trusted aide Kripashankar Singh cosy up to his own friend within the party Sushilkumar Shinde who succeeded him later.

In between the 1992-93 communal riots and the March 1993 serial bomb blasts, then chief minister Sudhakarrao Naik did try to hold secret meeting with party MLAs at an undisclosed destination. Sharad Pawar who then was the Union Defense Minister suddenly turned up at the meeting spoiling all the plans Naik had done to save his chair.

In politics like there are no permanent friends or foes, where ideological lines blur with families being divided along its lines, one cannot hazard a guess. Even a eternal back-bencher, jovial Babasaheb Bhosale did not in his wildest of dreams ever imagined  becoming the Chief Minister of the state one day.

Hence it cannot be said for certain as to what will happen by next Diwali. Khadse might well weather this storm, but his political career will take some beating to repair in the long run. By then the time and chance goes. And in politics time and chance waits for no one. You have to seize it.

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