Forming a BJP government in the Maharastra only put the state leadership in the pilot’s seat of a plane whose engines have failed as a pandemic is in a worse situation and is almost uncontrollable
John Travolta’s character in the film “Broken Arrow” says boxing is all about rope-a-dope. You show your opponent one thing and do something else. He goes on to claim that Ali took the title from Foreman using this strategy. Well, Boxing might be using this strategy and has even named it, but there is no doubt this strategy has originated in the second oldest profession of the world i.e., politics.
In political analysis, the crucial element is reading into what was not said and looking for things that don’t exist. About a month ago it appeared BJP was ready to avenge betrayal by Shiv Sena by ensuring Uddhav Thackeray doesn’t get elected to the Legislative Council. The Governor was sitting on the recommendation of the cabinet nominating Uddhav Thackeray to the council for more than a month. Due to the pandemic council elections were postponed and the deadline for Uddhav to become a member of either the assembly or council is nearing. He was tense as his inability to continue as CM will expose his political naivety.
If Ajit Pawar has not gone with BJP on a short honeymoon, Jayant might have become the new number two in the MVA government.
Finally, he overcame his hesitation and called the Prime Minister. And, with that one call, he extended the life of his government at least by two years. Questions here are, who will be benefiting if Uddhav resigns from the chief minister’s post due to constitutional obligations? Why Modi helped Uddhav to continue? Will BJP and Shiv Sena become friends again?
Coming to the first question, two people were eagerly waiting for Uddhav to resign. One was Ajit Pawar. And the other one was his uncle, Sharad Pawar. Ajit was tired of playing number two for too long. In fact, by being perennial number two in Maharashtra politics, Ajit Pawar got overexposed and victimized to some extent. During the Congress-NCP rule, it was NCP that was projected as the more corrupt party. And Ajit Pawar has represented the apathy of the entire political class, by his insensitive remarks on rains. He was the primary target of the entire investigation into the irrigation scam and he was relieved by Devendra Fadnavis during the One and half-day government in which, Ajit Pawar played the role of number two – again.
As it is now in the public domain, Ajit joined hands with Devendra Fadnavis only because he sensed his uncle’s intent of pushing Supriya Sule to the top position. He returned to number two position even in the present MVA government. This, he interpreted wrongly. Ajit thought his past mistakes were forgiven and the NCP is again one big family. But, the real reason was different. Sharad Pawar will not let his daughter work under Uddhav. So, if not Ajit, the other one who could be Deputy Chief Minister was Jayant Patil. In fact, if Ajit Pawar has not gone with BJP on a short honeymoon, Jayant might have become the new number two in the MVA government. Selecting Jayant would serve two purposes:
- One, it gives a signal that NCP is not a family party and that would inspire many small and middle rung leaders to work with renewed excitement.
- Second, it will remind Ajit, he is just one like any other leader and will kill his aspirations. This would prevent any possible revolt in the future when Supriya Sule will be anointed as the heiress.
The chances of Fadnavis pulling Maharashtra out of the current situation are very less. Also, he will be accused of inept handling of the COVID-19 situation by those who handled the situation ineptly.
But, somehow Ajit got wind of the scheme and wanted to preempt his uncle by joining hands with BJP. Though his attempt has failed, he created a precarious situation to his uncle who could not ignore his nephew. Making Jayant Patil as deputy chief minister would be seen as punishing Ajit Pawar – not only by Ajit but even by all party members. Given the fact that both deals of NCP are void of any morality, punishing the nephew would be seen as vindictive in nature. Most of NCP leaders have molded themselves the way Sharad Pawar thinks and speaks. As such, none of them remember why NCP was even formed. NCP acted always as a good business venture. Now, Ajit losing out would only mean rules of business have changed. Sharad Pawar can’t afford this as such an opinion would scuttle Supriya Sule ascending to the top.
In this situation, if Uddhav resigns, it is a golden chance for the Uncle-Nephew duo. From the Uncle’s viewpoint, this might be the time to give reins of the state to Supriya and let Aditya Thackeray become her deputy. For the nephew, this is the time to come to the fore and claim supremacy and force the uncle to either publicly acknowledge him as the successor. But, chances of nephew winning are far less and even he knew it. But, he can’t leave the arena without putting up a fight. And, that means great political instability in the state – especially the state has become notorious for the way it handled the epidemic.
Coming to the second question, BJP is not ready to take over Maharashtra at present. In fact, the adventure in Madhya Pradesh has boomeranged on it already as they snatched power while the epidemic was in its nascent stage. Maharashtra, on the other hand, is in a worse situation and is almost uncontrollable. So, forming a government in the state only put the state leadership in the pilot’s seat of a plane whose engines have failed. Also, if the government is formed by Devendra Fadnavis, the internal bickering of BJP leaders will prevent him to administer the state with full potential. The chances of Fadnavis pulling Maharashtra out of the current situation are very less. Also, he will be accused of inept handling of the COVID-19 situation by those who handled the situation ineptly.
So, BJP will not rock the boat helmed by Uddhav Thackeray but will wait till it sinks on its own or come out of rough waters before taking control of the rudder. Having decided that Modi could ask the governor to accept the recommendation of the cabinet and nominate Uddhav. That would mean the governor held the decision only because of political reasons. So, the decision to hold elections to the council. This way, the propriety of the governor remained intact and Uddhav consolidated his power within the coalition. This was not expected by Sharad Pawar and so there were many parleys to the governor by NCP leaders to complain about the government. But, that is another story and for another day.
The final issue is will BJP and Shiv Sena become friends again?
In one word, the answer is No. At least not in the immediate future. They can only become friends only if Uddhav Thackeray takes initiative and willingly sacrifice Sanjay Raut.
Those who knew Narendra Modi will agree on how cautiously he trades with those who abused him. In fact, it was Devendra Fadnavis who wanted to continue with the alliance with Shiv Sena and was seconded by Narendra Modi. In a way, they overruled Amit Shah, who opposed the alliance even before elections. Amit Shah was vexed on the way Shiv Sena leaders function. Indian Express has published a story on how kitchen conferences have affected the decision making of alliance and how annoyed Amit Shah was. In fact, Amit Shah has not visited Mumbai to pacify Shiv Sena. That was the reason why Fadnavis was left to fend himself in the government formation. After the fiasco that ended his one-and-half-day rule in Maharashtra, Fadnavis realized how wrong he was in reading both Uddhav and Ajit. So, Fadnavis, on his own will not be doing any serious politicking just to become the chief minister.
As the image of Shiv Sena has plummeted after elections and when they joined hands with both Congress and NCP, the internal bickering in BJP has prevented the party from appropriating the advantage. It was Raj Thackeray who moved fast and tried to gather disgruntled Shiv Sainiks. It was a godsend opportunity to the otherwise ignored Thackeray. He will be ready to join hands with BJP. Though some Sainiks are in large with Shiv Sena as it is difficult to leave the party when in power, the core vote bank has already got disillusioned and recognized that this was not their own Shiv Sena, the party that stands for Marathi Manus.
Another reason why the government will not be disturbed by BJP was given by Mamata Banerjee, from the opposite corner of India. Revealing her debate with Amit Shah, she said when she challenged the Home minister to take charge of the situation in the state of West Bengal, he apparently said “How can we dismiss a democratically elected government.” Whatever the real intention behind the remark, BJP can now not be seen pulling rugs from under the feet of the MVA government. At least not until assembly elections in the states of Bihar, West Bengal are over. And, that gives nearly two years to Uddhav Thackeray to pull up his socks and rectify the mistakes he has done in the last six months. Similarly, even Fadnavis has the same amount of time to consolidate his party. In NCP, by the time anything happens in Maharashtra, the fight will be between cousins and not between the uncle and nephew.
Meanwhile, Congress is conspicuous by its absence in the entire debate. That means they either don’t exist or simply irrelevant.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.
 If Shiv Sena expects sympathy, they don’t know public: Amit Shah – Nov 14, 2019, Indian Express