Maharashtra: More twists and turns in store

The Devendra Fadnavis government formation last week has raised moral, legal and political questions. The Apex Court is already looking into the legal aspect. The on-going political drama might continue with claims and counter claims and clarity might return only after the floor test of the new government.

Questions were raised at the way the BJP staked claim in the wee hours on Saturday and the conduct of the governor in swearing in the BJP government. The BJP had kept its cards close to its chest and gave an impression that it was not in the race to form the government though statements from the BJP leaders like Nitin Gadkari who said, “in politics and cricket anything can happen” gave some indication that there was something up their sleeves.

Fadnavis taking oath is not the end of the matter, as he has to prove his majority. Indicating apprehensions of horse-trading, the four parties have already transported their respective legislators to various resorts. This ‘safekeeping’ of our elected representatives seems to have almost become a normal practice with people delivering more and more fractured verdicts. It is unexplainable why a public representative and lawmaker should be willing to change sides so fast?

The Sena-BJP combine did not respect the mandate of the people and failed to iron out their differences by adopting a give and take attitude. The BJP-Sena pre-poll alliance secured a clear majority, winning 161 seats (BJP 105, Sena 56) collectively in the 288-member House. The Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray believed that if he missed this chance, he could never become the chief minister.

The Sena explored the option of going with the NCP-Congress combine and form the government on condition that the chief minister would be from the Sena. Had the three parties decided to stake claim without dilly-dallying for almost a month, things would have gone well. Unfortunately, since the coalition had some inherent contradictions it was not easy to decide. In short, the whole thing got stuck on the issue of power sharing. By the time, this was sorted out and the three parties were ready to stake claim, the BJP and a breakaway group of the NCP led by party chief Sharad Pawar’s nephew Ajit Pawar forestalled it by forming the government.

The BJP stood to gain politically if it had let an unstable and volatile coalition come to power, as the Sena-led coalition lasting the full term was minimal.

A shocked Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP were left high and dry blaming everyone else for the disaster. For the Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, it was literally a slip between the cup and the lip. In 2014, when the Sena-BJP alliance broke ahead of the Assembly polls, Uddhav had commented that the BJP had snatched away Sena’s golden chance. So when he brokered the alliance this time he wanted to make sure that Sena did not miss the boat. Since 1999, the Sena has not occupied the chief minister’s post.

While there could be a post mortem on the how and why of the events, one thing is clear: these political parties have let down the people who had elected their legislators. The role of NCP is quite mysterious. Why did Ajit Pawar decide to break off at the last minute?

As for the Congress, it would have been a sweet revenge if it had become a partner in the government. Maharashtra is a big state and the financial capital of the country. Congress had a strong base there at one point of time. There have been allegations that the party took a long time to decide about the coalition. While the Congress legislators had been in favour of going with the Sena-NCP combine, some senior leaders were a little apprehensive about the ideology of the saffron party.

The story has not ended with the formation of the government, as there will be more twists and turns in the days to come. A defeat or win for Fadnavis government will indicate which way Maharashtra politics will go. No political party has come out of the mess in the formation of the Maharashtra government smelling of roses. It sends out a clear message that they are after power and for that they are willing to go any length.

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