The new-found camaraderie and the deal struck by the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party with the Shiv Sena for sharing power in Maharashtra have virtually put the Kerala leaders of both parties in a quandary.
The Congress-NCP-Shiv Sena alliance virtually rattled the State leaders of both parties and were constrained to search for convincing arguments to assert their secular credentials.
The NCP, a strong ally of the Left Democratic Front led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) sought to wriggle out of the crisis by reiterating that the Kerala unit will continue to be part of the front and doggedly pursue its own course against the hardcore Hindutva agenda of the Sena and the likes.
The Sena is not a force to be reckoned with in Kerala and even the Bharatiya Janata Party has chosen to keep it at bay.
The NCP, with three MLAs and a Minister, shares a long association with the LDF and could ill-afford to tamely toe the national leadership’s line in a bipolar polity where its survival solely depends on its continuation in the front. The NCP stance came as a relief to the CPI(M) that was closely monitoring the Maharashtra scenario.
Tidings of the Congress and Sena parting ways offered much relief to the State leaders and Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala made it explicit by stating he has been saved of a major embarrassment. He also demanded the CPI(M) to oust NCP from the LDF. But the joy was ephemeral. The thaw in relations delivered a rude jolt to the State Congress leaders and are frantically searching for logical and justifiable reasons for being part of the alliance. The only justification they offer is the Congress’ commitment to keeping the BJP out of power and also that the alliance has been built upon a common minimum program in the interest of the State. But it remains to be seen whether that sole premise would be adequate for the Congress to convince its trusted partner, the Indian Union Muslim League, for partnering with the Sena.
For, the IUML leaders had recently expressed their reservations about the soft Hindutva line being pursued by Congress and also former Congress president Rahul Gandhi managed his face-saving win from Wayanad to the Lok Sabha mostly on the strength of the IUML.
Congress will have to strive hard to maintain its minority base in Kerala intact and ensure that the Maharashtra alliance is not causing any chinks in its database too.