All fall down

The Maharashtra imbroglio has turned out to be a nemesis for all the political players there. Besides, a few Constitutional offices have also been tarred in the process.

It all started when the Assembly elections held on October 21, 2019, threw a hung verdict on October 24. The BJP got 105 seats, followed by its pre-poll partner and longtime mate Shiv Sena with 56 seats. Sharad Pawar’s NCP secured 54 seats and Indian National Congress came last with 44 seats.

Ideally, the BJP plus Shiv Sena which had a slender combined majority should have formed the government. But all was not well between the two since the last term itself. And Shiv Sena now saw an opportunity to spite its big brother.

For the next 15 days, the Shiv Sena upped the ante for the CM post itself for 2.5 years, something the BJP, with 100 plus seats, refused to swallow. The BJP-Shiv Sena alliance formally broke up. And the Shiv Sena reached out to NCP and Congress. This was a landmark move, as for the first time, the Shiv Sena has stepped out of its long lingering ‘communal’ shadow and took its baby steps towards the ‘secular’ landscape! These talks went on.

Governor B.S.Koshyari was forced to act. First, as single largest party, he asked BJP to form the government, giving it 48 hours. BJP expressed its inability. He then threw the gauntlet at Shiv Sena, giving it 24 hours. Shiv Sena wanted three days, which the Governor declined. The Governor then moved to the NCP, and this request too drew a blank.

The situation became so comical that there was even a WhatsApp meme which warned people against picking up an incoming call with number +9122. Because it could be the Maharashtra Governor calling you to form the government. Anyway, with all secular and communal combines having failed, the Governor recommended President rule.

On November 22, after much bargaining, the Congress and NCP agreed to name Shiv Sena’s Uddhav Thackarey as CM of their post-poll alliance (Maha Vikas Aghadi). This set the cat among the pigeons. The very next day, November 23 (Saturday), at 5.47 am, President’s rule was revoked.
BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis was sworn in as CM, with NCP’s Ajit Pawar as Deputy CM at the Governor’s residence in Mumbai.

The other group promptly moves the SC the same day. Finally, the SC asks the Maharashtra Governor to hold a floor test on November 27. Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar resign on Nov 26 after holding office for just three days. Uddhav Thackarey stakes claim and forms government with NCP and Cong support.

The Maharashtra drama is politics in the pits. In my view, the BJP has emerged at its worst, covered in a shameful soot that it dumped on itself. What was the tearing hurry in waking up the President at such ungodly hours? What was the necessity for the Prime Minister to use his special powers by which he can bypass the Cabinet? What kind of emergency or crisis warranted such desperate ‘actions’?

That such underhand and clandestine activities were resorted to by, of all persons, Modi, for matters of no significance to the nation, but blatantly for political purposes redounds badly to his credit. Also, these shenanigans have diminished the Constitutional offices of the President and the Governor showing them up as mere hand-maidens.

The Shiv Sena is a party capable of saying and doing anything and so none need attach any credibility to it. Still, Uddhav, for all his unseemly power greed, is never really going to enjoy that power unfettered. With two unfamiliar partners breathing down his bent neck, a lot of his pride awaits to be swallowed.

Rahul’s Congress had hardly any say in all this hulllabullo. But it has to perforce eat countless of its own words uttered over decades. By latching itself to the tiger’s tail, it has, for all practical purposes, bartered away whatever support base it enjoyed in Maharashtra. Its fall is steep and irreversible.

Sharad Pawar and his NCP are great survivors. It has been a matter of immense surprise to me all these years how Sharad Pawar is always in the reckoning, as a friend of all with nary a scam to his credit. It’s a wonder why no regime has ever bothered to dig into his dealings.

Today, he is the kingmaker, having vanquished the BJP, and thinks he has tamed the tiger with ever-changing stripes. And in the process, also, rendered the Congress irrelevant. But to his mortification, the so-called ‘strongman’ has to watch a slippery Sena sitting on the throne. But worse is the inside irritation. He has to perennially put up with the antics of the hot-blooded nephew, Ajit Pawar.

And so who is the winner in Maharashtra? I will say the Governor. A government has at last been formed.

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Jawahar T R