POLITICIANS love to justify their opportunism on the basis of the cardinal Machiavellian principle: “There are no permanent friends or enemies in politics.” The Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, a key ally of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party for years, has now decided to back Congress candidates contesting the two Lok Sabha seats in the state. It has also thrown its weight behind the Congress nominee for the by-election to the Mapusa Assembly constituency and said it would decide on support to the Congress candidate in the Mandrem by-election in a few days. In Shiroda it is engaged in a ‘friendly fight’ with the Congress. Though it is backing Congress candidates the MGP remains a part of the ruling BJP-led alliance as it has not yet officially withdrawn its support to it. Publicly the MGP has been saying that they want to punish the Bharatiya Janata Party for its ‘misdeeds’ of dropping their tallest leader Ramakrishna Dhavalikar from the state cabinet and poaching their two legislators on the lure of high offices. But officially it has not withdrawn its support which it gave when Pramod Sawant was being elected as the leader. It is apparent the MGP is trying to sail in two boats at the same time.
The MGP, which ruled the state uninterrupted for 17 long years from 1963 until a Congress wave drove it out of power in 1980, has been a part of every alliance that has ruled the state for the last 17 years, irrespective of which party was the leading partner. This is the first time that the party finds itself out of power. The MGP was for long considered a natural ally of the BJP and was instrumental in its rise. Though the MGP walked out of the alliance ahead of the 2017 Assembly elections it returned to the BJP after the poll results threw up a hung Assembly and in the bargain got a good deal. However, the relationship between two soured in the recent months as MGP president Pandurang Dhavalikar refused to withdraw from contest in Shiroda. Though the BJP appointed Ramakrishna Dhavalikar as a deputy chief minister on the understanding that he would get his brother to pull out of the Shiroda contest, that did not happen. The BJP dropped Ramakrishna Dhavalikar from the cabinet and bought off two MGP MLAs.
Never in its political life had the MGP supported the Congress in any election, though it was part of two Congress-led governments. The MGP’s support to Congress in the current elections is evidence of its desperation. It is opportunistic politics, which has been characteristic of the party. The MGP suddenly finds itself out of power and is showing signs of moving closer to the Congress for the time being. The MGP on Saturday announced that they were going to submit their letter of withdrawal of support to the BJP-led government to the Governor in a few days. That also shows more temporary proximity to the Congress. However, the MGP has kept its options open on supporting or opposing the government depending on issues. The MGP leadership needs to take a clear stand with which party they would go, so there is no confusion among party workers and supporters.
It sounded amusing when the MGP said they wanted to punish turncoats Subhash Shirodkar and Dayanand Sopte. MGP leaders have been changing and crossing sides themselves whenever it suited them. As the MGP lives by a culture of opportunism it has often seen its MLAs switch sides for fulfilling their personal objectives. Overnight its two MLAs moved over to the BJP. MGP leaders have been the biggest beneficiaries of opportunism in view of hung Assembly or defections from ruling party or alliances to bring down a government. The tactics of the Dhavalikar brothers, who control the MGP, seem to be clear in the current situation: they want to weaken the BJP and come back to power in alliance with the Congress. Until the BJP bought off two of his MLAs and dropped Ramakrishna Dhavalikar, the plan of Dhavalikar brothers was to increase their number to four with Pandurang’s win in order to re-negotiate the deal with the BJP. The Dhavalikar brothers are hoping that the results of the current elections will suit them, regardless of the composition of the ruling alliance.