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FPJ EDIT: First sign of cracks in Maha alliance

The Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) or the ruling coalition in Maharashtra has had its first taste of choppy waters in governing this western Indian state with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray favouring the National Population Register (NPR) even as the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) are dead set against it. The divide is too marked to be missed and there is no knowing if this issue would ultimately lead to parting of ways. With Uddhav calling on Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and also paying a ‘courtesy call’ on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, political jockeying is hotting up nice and proper. It is no secret that the Congress was never too keen on joining a coalition with Shiv Sena given the latter’s record of favouring Hindutva. It was NCP strongman Sharad Pawar who pushed the Congress into it and has been virtually monopolising decision-making in the coalition after cosying up with Uddhav. Now, however, Pawar is on the same page as Sonia Gandhi or so it seems while the Shiv Sena, finding that it shares common goals and thrusts with the BJP is weighing its options with its former ally. That Uddhav has favoured cooperating with the Centre on NPR and is in principle okay with Central thinking on the Citizenship Amendment Act are ominous signals to the MVA partners. Amidst all this is Pawar whose unreliability quotient has markedly increased.If Uddhav sticks to his pro-NPR stand despite virtual ultimatum by the Congress, the end of the coalition could well be close. But even if Uddhav comes round, the next confrontation may not be far away given the Shiv Sena’s realisation that the alliance with the Congress is not going down well with the people at large in Maharashtra. Uddhav’s open support for Hindutva and his satisfaction with Ram Janambhoomi politics played by the BJP have also piqued Sonia and Rahul Gandhi who increasingly see a design in Sena’s tilt towards Hindu politics. In an interview with Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamana, Uddhav recently said the Citizenship Act is not about taking away citizenship, it is about giving citizenship to persecuted minorities from neighbouring nations. This sat well with the Centre’s line on it. All in all, while it may be early for the MVA government to fall, the signs are not very comforting for the ruling coalition in the state.

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