Shiv Sena boss Mr. Balasaheb Thackeray has stated that Mrs. Sushma Swaraj is the best choice to be the prime ministerial candidate of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). He has described her as a “brilliant” prospect for becoming PM. What provoked Mr. Thackeray to announce his preference at this point of time is a mystery. The general election is a considerable time away and there is no visible urgency for the NDA to announce its choice. One cannot decide what motivated the Shiv Sena leader to state his preference. One can however venture to assess its political fallout.
There are two results created by Mr. Thackeray’s statement. First, he has considerably muddied further the waters of the NDA by accentuating the rivalry between Gujarat Chief Minister Mr. Narendra Modi and Bihar Chief Minister Mr. Nitish Kumar. Both these leaders are currently perceived as front runners for the prime ministerial post among the NDA ranks. Not surprisingly the NDA chairman Mr. Sharad Yadav was quick to snub Mr. Thackeray by stating that the decision about the prime ministerial candidate would be taken by the NDA collectively. Mr. Thackeray with eleven MPs in the Lok Sabha and unable to claim presently power in any state government can at best be considered a minor force in the NDA. However there is a second and more insidious result of Mr. Thackeray’s endorsement of Mrs. Swaraj.
Even the worst critics of Mrs. Swaraj may accuse her of all else but not for being representative of Hindu communalism. She was never in the RSS, had a socialist party background and has never through her utterances or actions ever acquired a communal taint in reputation. Mr. Thackeray’s endorsement is the worst certificate she could have hoped for to influence her natural constituency. At one stroke Mr. Thackeray, whose ideological affiliations are extremely close to Mr. Modi, has by strongly backing Mrs. Swaraj placed her on the same page as Mr. Modi. This will of course in no way promote the chances of Mrs. Swaraj. It will considerably make Mr. Modi’s candidature more acceptable.
From Mr. Thackeray’s unprecedented and strong endorsement of Mrs. Swaraj it will be seen therefore that both against his chief NDA rival Mr. Nitish Kumar, and against his silent detractors within the BJP in parliament, it is Mr. Narendra Modi who gains most. It is not known what were Mr. Thackeray’s intentions in strongly endorsing Mrs. Swaraj’s candidature. It is fair to conclude what its impact will be. Whether Mr. Thackeray created this political fallout by design or default had best be left to the judgment of readers.