Maharashtra Politics

The political developments in Maharashtra have led to delay in government formation after the assembly elections last month. The BJP-Shiv Sena entered into a pre-election alliance and won a majority to form the government, but the Shiv Sena demanded the position of chief minister. The BJP has 105 members, the SS 56 MLAs. Shiv Sena’s demand was unreasonable yet the SS was adamant.

When the BJP did not accede to the Sena demand, it approached the other parties like the NCP(Nationalist Congress Party of Sharad Pawar) and INC or the Congress. The three of them make the majority.

They should have formed the government but have failed to do so even after 2 weeks of the BJP declining the invitation from the governor as a majority of two alliance partners. That is no wonder as they are ideologically opposed to each other very strongly. Invitations to SS and NCP were not accepted similarly.

The current efforts to form a coalition government have not succeeded so far even though a number of meetings have been held by the Shiv Sena, NCP & Congress. They have not announced name of the chief minister.

It is, therefore, a study in politics for those interested.

For one, it is good that the Shiv Sena, called communal and Hindutvawadi by the NCP as well as the congress has climbed down to become secular and the NCP & the Congress opposed to communal parties like the BJP and Shiv Sena have climbed down to embrace the Shiv Sena for power! So far so good. But there is more than meets the eye.

In this game, the shrewd politicians and parties are playing political war-games to kill each other’s rival individually. Collectively they are against the BJP government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Individually they want to finish the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra. The NCP as well as the Congress have no love for the SS and would like it to vacate the political space for them to rule Maharashtra. To achieve their goal, they needed to separate the two they call “Hindu parties”- BJP & Shiv Sena.

They have achieved this goal yet are not sure if it is permanent. They fear the BJP move which may upend the apple cart ruining their dreams. They may not succeed in making permanent enemies of natural allies like the BJP and the Shiv Sena.

The other game is between the Congress and the NCP. The Congress is opposed to the NCP, especially its leader Sharad Pawar for having opposed the candidature of Sonia Gandhi for the position of Prime Minister of India in 2004. Moreover, the Congress has lost power in Maharashtra also because of Pawar and the NCP. It would never allow the NCP to rule Maharashtra. Any strong bonding between the NCP and the Shiv Sena poses a grave threat to the existence of the congress Party in Maharashtra. The Congress pays a very heavy price for this unworkable government formation in Maharashtra if the NCP and the Shiv Sena bond strongly.

The Congress has betrayed indecision in finalizing the government formation matter for another reason. The Congress carries the charge of minority appeasement and an anti-Hindu mindset. Its secular allies and support groups are opposed to the party adopting soft-Hindutva by allying with a Hindutva party like the Shiv Sena. The Congress stands to lose its support base of Muslims and Christians if it forms a government in coalition with the Shiv Sena. It has received written memoranda from its allies. These voices include the Lutyens media, Award wapasi gangs and letter writing retired public servants. The Congress stakes are much higher than others and some Maharashtra Congress leaders have gone public with their opposition to any alliance with the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra.

The Congress Party is a national party and the Sharad Pawar led NCP (Nationalist Congress Party) is a regional party only. The political war game between the two is to cut each other while posing to be together in giving the people of Maharashtra a strong government for 5 years. Both know it very well that there is no chance of any SS-NCP-Congress government staying in power in Maharashtra for so long, as it means hara kiri. Their game is to weaken the other(s) to muster enough numbers in the next election and rule for 5 years! The Congress is shrewd enough to understand the NCP moves and is using it to the maximum for dividing the BJP and Shiv Sena so that it manages to shorten the tenure of Narendra Modi by hook or crook and capture power at the centre again.

Sharad Pawar on the other hand is aiming to snatch the minority votes in Maharashtra and other parts to strengthen his own party at the cost of the Congress. If the Congress association with the Shiv Sena helps Pawar derive that benefit and alienate the minorities from the Congress, he may get lucky to realize his life’s dream of becoming prime minister of India. One reason for days of deliberations without real outcomes other than what feeds the media is this silent war game.

Sharad Pawar discouraged the Shiv Sena knowing well the outcome. But the Shiv Sena in its ambition to get the Chief Minister’s chair became blind to the limitations that drive logic into the head of even the most unreasonable person. Now the Shiv Sena is caught in a grave dilemma whether to go along or go back to the BJP if an honourable mechanism is worked out for its return to the BJP alliance.

The Shiv Sena is the victim of its unrestrained ambition: it is like the snake trying to swallow a mole mouse which it can neither swallow nor throw out (saanp chhachhundar ki si halat- na khaa sake na ugal sake). It has come to this pass because of the mischievous advice it received from some quarters. It can be compared to the advice Manthara, the chambermaid, gave to her queen Kaikayi to demand the coronation of her son Bharat instead of Ram, the Crown Prince, and exile for Ram for 14 years. When Ram learnt of the predicament of his father, he volunteered to fulfill the demand and proceeded to the forests. The people of Ayodhya were thrown into gloom. The conduct of the Shiv Sena and the gloom of the voters in Maharashtra is similar.

The Congress will drive the Shiv Sena crazy by changing its demands every day. It does not want to take the blame of not helping formation of a government in Maharashtra but it is not in favour of a Shiv Sena led government with a Shivsainik as the chief Minister of Maharashtra. It will keep proposing different names, while Sharad Pawar is weighed on Uddhav Thackeray, gaining popularity and scoring brownie points over the congress party. He is building his image as one trying to give a stable government to Maharashtra, which is humbug.

If Maharashtra does not get a government soon the blame will be laid at the doors of the Congress or the Shiv Sena or both and the NCP will get sympathy for trying its best to help form the government.

The Shiv Sena is the biggest loser in this game of political attrition. If Uddhav becomes chief minister, he will have to appoint another person as the President of the SS. Chances are that the Sena will lose its identity sooner than later and get divided into more than one part. That serves the political objectives of the NCP & Sharad Pawar. He kills three birds with one stone: Shiv Sena, BJP and Congress.

The Congress Party is more experienced than Sharad Pawar in playing political chess. They aim to kill the BJP, SS and NCP in this godsend opportunity. BJP by stopping them from coming to power again; NCP by making Pawar subservient to the dictates of Sonia Gandhi (meaning Congress Party) and SS by converting it into an employee of the Congress Party. The congress does not allow its chief ministers free hand.

The country will witness yet another publicly weeping chief minister, after Karnataka, in a Congress coalition government if these three parties succeed in forming the government in Maharashtra.

It falls on the shoulders of the voters to exercise their franchise responsibly to facilitate formation of a government by a party winning a clear majority as soon as results are announced.

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