Maharashtrian Drama: ‘SENA’ GETS POWER, AT LAST!…

By Sarkaritel December 10, 2014 13:02

Maharashtrian Drama: ‘SENA’ GETS POWER, AT LAST!…

Maharashtrian Drama


By Nikhil Gajendragadkar

Politics is a bigger ‘game of uncertainties’ than Cricket, at least in India. Incident like the main Opposition party joining the Government (or treasury benches) can be seen only here. Maharashtra’s new BJP government has expanded mainly to accommodate estranged ally, the Shiv Sena. The ‘Saffron Alliance’ is back in power after 15 long years.

The Shiv Sena vehemently opposed the BJP in the Assembly elections, refused to support it, put forth many conditions to back it but eventually gave in. It got its share of power but at what cost? The course of events from Assembly elections to this expansion has been full of twists, turns and ‘drama’ indeed. A recap speaks volumes of the political intrigues for being in power.

After the October elections, a hung Assembly emerged in Maharashtra. The BJP managed to be the largest party but was unable to form the Government on its own. Who would lend it support was a crucial question. It had decided to snap ties with the Shiv Sena just before the polls. Friends had turned foes. Their campaign was bitter. Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray hoped to clinch power on its own, but was humbled with only 63 seats coming its way.

Unlike the Centre and Haryana, the BJP failed to win a majority in the State and was looking for partners to form the Government. It tactfully postponed the formation after Diwali to cool tempers. Hope for the Shiv Sena was rekindled. Feelers were sent, through media and secretly. Talks–overt and covert — did take place, but the Sena started throwing tantrums and asked for minimum 12 ministerial positions. Uddhav’s demand of key and ‘plum’ portfolios like Home and Finance and Deputy Chief Minister were seen as roadblocks. The BJP high command flatly refused and it was clear the Sena wouldn’t join hands.

However, Sharad Pawar’s National Congress Party sprung a surprise by declaring its support to ‘would be’ BJP Government on the very day of counting of votes (19th October), as the trends predicted the BJP becoming the largest single party. Interestingly, the BJP had not asked for it! But this put the Sena in a tight spot, as its backing became insignificant. Uddhav was in a fix.

What is seen as a desperate push is that before Devendra Fadnavis was elected as BJP’s Leader of Legislative party, Uddhav offered support to ‘any person’ the BJP chose as the CM, ‘in the larger interest of the State.’ Still nothing happened. While Uddhav was hoping for an invitation from its old partner, the Governor asked the BJP to form the Government and prove its majority on the floor of the House. Here Uddhav saw his chance and upped the ante for a major share of power in lieu of support. The BJP high command ignored him again.

Furious, the Sena came down heavily on ‘betrayal by BJP’ and decided to sit in Opposition and oppose the ‘vote of confidence.’ Fadnavis Government proved its majority by a controversial ‘voice vote’ and survived. It was clear that the NCP helped it by participating even though earlier it had decided to abstain. This angered the Sena no end. Its members demanded division of votes but the Speaker rejected it.

The Congress termed the entire exercise as violation of the Constitution and demanded Fadnavis’s resignation. The NCP, charged the Sena of unnecessarily creating a scene and not being a ‘serious opposition’ as its members were not in the House the vote took place. This further infuriated Shiv Sena. It looked directionless. A case in point is the Cabinet expansion in Delhi. Last minute it refused to accept the berth offered and called back its MP. The rift had widened. The special Assembly session ended, the 10-member Government was intact and the Sena got the ‘Leader of the Opposition’ seat.

However, as the winter session of the Assembly approached nearer, efforts started anew to bring estranged friends together. By end-November reconciliation seemed probable. Reports of BJP President Amit Shah and Uddhav talking over the phone became headlines. The Sena apparently tried to again push its demand of Deputy CM and Finance portfolio, but Shah and Modi declined.

This time, the Shiv Sena veered around and decided to join the Fadnavis Government. Ten of its members were made ministers. With an equal number from the BJP, the expanded Government has 30 ministers now. However, Fadnavis has retained Home with him and there is no Deputy CM. Both Finance and Revenue portfolios also remain with BJP, with Industries been given to Sena. Indeed, Uddhav was compelled to accept portfolios of secondary importance such as PWD (given to Shinde who was earlier Leader of Opposition), Environment, Health and Family Welfare etc. Some members are Minister of State and will work under BJP ministers.

‘Why’ this happened is more important than ‘how’ it happened. Immediately after the elections a section in the Shiv Sena was eager to join the Government. The reason being it felt the verdict had favoured the ‘alliance’, and that the party must go with the BJP without much ado. Remember, they have been out of power for 15 long years. Last time, the Sena had an upper hand, but now the situation had changed. It was no longer the ‘big brother’. With the opportunity lost, this section grew restless. The leadership is learnt to have sensed an imminent danger of a split. Perhaps, the BJP smelt the unrest brewing and obviously took advantage of it.

However, it couldn’t last too long. Sharad Pawar’s statement asking his cadres to be prepared for polls indicated that the Fadnavis couldn’t take his party’s support for granted. This meant that the Government would be at the NCP’s mercy. Risky and unacceptable. More so as the previous Congress-NCP Government was riddled with many scams and scandals and Fadnavis would need to start enquiry in some of the cases.

And if this happens, then the NCP would obviously withdraw support. Old friend Shiv Sena will too not help or if it did extend cooperation the price would be very heavy. So what options are left? Instead of going back to polls it is better to convince the Sena and bring it around. At least their alliance will ensure a safe and stable Government.

Well, this has happened now. Thanks to Minister of Co Operation Chandrakant Patil, who played an important role in this ‘patch up.’ He has direct access to Modi and Shah, enjoys support of the RSS and is now a powerful political figure in the State. As for the Congress and NCP, the two are now vying for the post of Leader of Opposition, left by the Sena. The tangle will hopefully be resolved in the ongoing winter session of Assembly. Till then, at least there is certainty on once count– the Shiv Sena has gained power– partially but its credibility has eroded. Damage control may well be the next drama. — INFA

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

By Sarkaritel December 10, 2014 13:02