Maharashtra was put under Presidents rule on Tuesday after it became clear that the impasse in the State was not going to conclude any time soon. Many criticized Governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari’s recommendation for Presidents rule, and many churlishly cried foul. Nevertheless, none of these political warhorses and their parties have been able to break the deadlock as of now.
Maharashtra went from a clear electoral mandate to a situation that none of the seasoned Parties saw coming. The 288-member Maharashtra assembly elections were fought by two alliances. The Bharatiya Janata Party- Shiv Sena alliance that had together ruled the State for five years under the leadership of Chief Minister Devendra Phadnavis- historically the only Chief Minister to complete a five-year term in Maharashtra and Nationalist Congress Party- Congress alliance.
The results of the elections were not a surprise with the BJP winning 105 seats and Shiv Sena 56 seats comfortably crossing the majority mark of 145 together. For a minute it seemed like these two ideologically bound parties would form the government but the situation suddenly changed. Today, we are seeing two ideologically opposite parties mulling over a partnership.
The Shiv Sena contemplating coming together with NCP and the Congress has been a game changer. Less of a game changer for the future of Maharashtra and more for the Shiv Sena itself. The enmity between Shiv Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray and Sharad Pawar is well known but lesser known is the fact that the Congress had taken away Balasaheb Thackeray’s voting rights for over two decades, an insult that Shiv Sainiks have not forgotten. Shiv Sena in their pursuit of power may end up losing more than they have taken into consideration. Firstly, they have recklessly put at risk losing their core support base that is more aligned to the Hind ideology than to the
dynastic politics of the Congress. Secondly, and more importantly they are disrespecting the mandate resulting in the Shiv Sena looking like an utterly unreliable partner.
The Shiv Sena has also conveniently forgotten that the formula of senior and junior partners between the BJP and Shiv Sena in the state was conceptualized by Balasaheb Thackeray. For instance, in 1995 Maharashtra assembly elections Shiv Sena had 73 seats and the BJP had 65 seats, just 8 seats short of the then senior partner Shiv Sena, but the formula and the coalition dharma given by Balasaheb Thackeray was still followed by the BJP. Therefore, the contrived argument that there was a private meeting between Uddhav Thackeray and Amit Shah where a commitment towards a rotational cycle of two and a half years each for the top post defies logic. On the contrary it adds to the negative perception of indiscretion by the Shiv Sena leadership.
Very often we see power focused leaders being led astray by their coterie of advisors. Uddhav Thackeray should revisit the advice he is being given and ask himself whether this power play will last him a lifetime. His focus very much like Sonia Gandhi to see their dynasty being carried forward, may be the beginning of the end for Balasaheb’s legacy just like it has been for the Gandhi legacy. The parallels between the two is but obvious. Uddhav Thackeray, who himself has no government experience, running pillar to post to make an inexperienced 29-year-old, first time legislature the Chief Minister is clearly an indication that Shiv Sena’s target is the top post for the next generation Thackeray. This target being above and beyond the best interest of the state and as well as his Party. This greed cannot fare well for Shiv Sena and so far it has not.
The BJP has lost nothing. Going by their trajectory they might come back in the re-elections with a stronger mandate. They have claimed the higher moral ground and stepped back with integrity refusing an unholy alliance. They could even reconsider partnering with the Shiv
Sena in the future. The Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamna’s article yesterday by Sanjay Raut has only added to the growing wedge between the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance. Reeking of discontent and hopelessness Sanjay Raut mercilessly attacked the BJP leadership and the last five years of their own government. However, he failed to explain why they then went into a pre-poll alliance with Devendra Phadnavis as the CM candidate.
On the other end of the ideological spectrum, the NCP- Congress also have nothing to lose. They were prepared to sit in the opposition. Now, they have suddenly found a shot at forming the government with the single point agenda of keeping the BJP out of power.
Uddhav Thackeray and his advisors in most probability are slowly realizing the position they have created for themselves. They arere considering their decision to partner with NCP-Congress. The Shiv Sena has a few unattractive options left. Firstly, they can continue to pursue the Shiv Sena- NCP- Congress alliance. However, the life span of this alliance is a foregone conclusion. Secondly, they can try to mend the BJP- Shiv Sena alliance. This time it will clearly be on BJP’s terms. And finally the last but probably the simplest way to save face for the Shiv Sena would be to assiduously adopt a wait and watch policy. Shiv Sena should allow situations to play out, in the meantime focusing back on the advice and the advisors that allowed such a political fiasco to transpire.
(Article contributed by Rami Niranjan Desai, Social and Political Analyst)
Disclaimer: Views expressed by the author are strictly personal.