What has happened in Maharashtra is for the best provided Mr. Sharad Pawar now plays his cards right. All four major parties will contest the polls on their own after the Congress-NCP and BJP-Shiv Sena alliances broke down. Now the public will see the reality separated from the hype. BJP can demonstrate the strength of the Modi wave after the Prime Minister campaigns in the state. Mr. Pawar can prove whether the Modi wave was a balloon to be punctured as he had claimed. The Congress can prove that voters support it which was why it ruled for three terms. Shiv Sena can vindicate its claims about the legacy of Bal Thackeray. It is the post poll scenario that might offer the best prospect for the state. It could result in the emergence of a two-party democracy across the nation if the victory numbers oblige.
It is in that event that Mr. Pawar’s opportunity would present itself.
Contrary to the Congress-NCP alliance and the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance which broke down the post poll alliance that could emerge in the event of a hung assembly might reflect a rational ideological polarization which could influence politics nationwide. The natural political polarization in India reflecting ground realities is neither one between the Left and the Right, nor one between communalism and secularism. The natural ideological polarization is between centralization and decentralization. Both impulses have relevance in a federal nation. And the hope is that the poll results might provide the forces of decentralization the foundation to forge a national alternative to balance the forces of centralization represented by national parties and currently most forcefully by Mr. Narendra Modi.
For that to happen the NCP and Shiv Sena must win numbers that allow them a majority. The natural alliance against the BJP and Congress is between NCP, Shiv Sena and MNS led by Mr. Raj Thackeray. It is up to Mr. Pawar to exert his influence as the elder statesman among all regional leaders in the country to practice conflict management between Mr. Udhav Thackeray and Mr. Raj Thackeray. He can do it if he can represent the challenge to be above petty politics and one confronting the state of Maharashtra and all the nation’s regional parties. He must present potential allies and voters with a vision of a new federal India inspired by the example of Maharashtra. No less than Mr. Modi he must project a national vision that is an alternative and equally attractive.
Mr. Pawar has the experience, seniority and sagacity to attempt this. He has the contacts, resources and stature to act as the catalyst for unifying all regional parties into a single federal party. India badly needs a genuine two-party democracy. Mr. Pawar can help achieve it. If he does not project himself as an aspirant for any post his influence will redouble. He has all the opportunities to attempt creating history. Does he have the ambition?