But the Congress brains trust decided to go for it. Denying BJP power would help dent the aura around its leaders Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, and give the opposition a crucial state to run, the party reckoned. Besides, the threat of state MLAs to break away was a serious concern.
However, after the shocking coup just when the new alliance had appeared set to take power, Congress is bracing for searing criticism from friends and foes alike who are likely to accuse it of compromising on “core value of secularism”. BJP would use Congress’s alliance with Sena to question its credentials to attack it for “communalism”.
Even its own leaders who were uncomfortable with the idea of going with a hardline Hindutva formation like Sena, would come forward with “I warned you” statements on the “miscalculation”.
It would require a lot of repair work. The party is bound to be concerned that the highrisk venture has made it vulnerable to attempts of those “secular” outfits seeking to dent its minority votebase. However, an insider said, irrespective of the outcome, the choice before the party was limited. A refusal to Pawar to ally with Sena would have resulted in a revolt by party MLAs and also robbed Congress of an old partner in NCP. Also, it would have sent a bad signal to BJP allies who may in future want to shift sides.
“We were caught between a rock and a hard place. We had to choose and we did the due diligence,” a party aide said. Interestingly, an AICC office-bearer said joining hands with a “mainstreamed” Sena carried no political risk. “Did we not come out in support of Ram temple after Supreme Court verdict? It is our attempt to engage in a new dialogue. Besides, BJP is a bigger enemy of minorities and that fact is not lost on anyone,” he argued.