The Maha political thriller scripted, choreographed and directed by Sharad Pawar

The unprecedented, unthinkable Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress political alliance in Maharashtra is thanks to one man.

 |  4-minute read |   28-11-2019
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Politics is a strange game, a great leveller and the art of making the impossible possible, as demonstrated by the incredible political drama in Maharashtra in the past few days.

Devendra Fadnavis entered the October 21 Assembly election as the only chief minister of Maharashtra in more than 40 years to complete a full five-year term. On November 26, when his second tenure ended abruptly, he created a contrasting record of serving the shortest tenure as Maharashtra CM: for just 80 hours.

Fadnavis’ record

The political Mahabharat in Maharashtra fought like a game of chess and choreographed like a rivetting Bollywood suspense drama, kept the entire nation on tenterhooks for weeks. The stakes were not limited to Maharashtra, nor were the dramatis personae confined to the state. The command and control button of this match was in Delhi. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah, and Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi remote-controlled the political goings-on in Maharashtra.

Amid election campaigning in October, the overriding narrative was that the BJP will inevitably make mincemeat of an insipid and demoralised Opposition (read the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party), fortify its position, relegate the Shiv Sena to an inconsequential position and end the political career of NCP chief Sharad Pawar. The results threw up an entirely different picture with the BJP mustering 105 seats and the Congress and NCP winning 44 and 54 seats respectively. However, the BJP was still in a comfortable zone as the Shiv Sena, its pre-poll ally, had won 56 seats. Together, they had 161 seats, 16 more than the magic figure of 145 in the 288-member Assembly. Then the unthinkable happened: The Shiv Sena reminded the BJP of the 50:50 formula for governance and insisted on rotational chief ministership. Initially, the public perception was that the Sena was deliberately trying to play hardball only to extract more from its bigger alliance partner. However, the Shiv Sena remained adamant.

main_sharad-pawar_re_112819114217.jpgChanakya of Maha politics: Sharad Pawar. (Photo: Reuters)

Enter Sharad Pawar. Here on, an unprecedented, unthinkable new political permutation emerged on the horizon — a potential Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government in Maharashtra!

In a coup on November 23, Fadnavis and Sharad Pawar’s nephew, Ajit, a prominent NCP leader, were sworn in as CM and deputy CM, respectively. The unseemly haste shown by virtually every constitutional authority shocked everyone and Shah was celebrated as modern ‘Chanakya’. President Ramnath Kovind invoked the rarely-used Rule 12 to do away with the need for a Union Cabinet nod to revoke President’s Rule in Maharashtra.

The Union home secretary signed the necessary papers ‘digitally’ at 5:47 am and the notification was uploaded without the President’s physical signature. Soon after Ajit took the oath, the state government dropped some charges in the alleged irrigation scam probe against him for lack of evidence. This, when only a few weeks ago, Fadnavis had repeatedly thundered that Pawar junior will soon be in jail.

Ajit’s interlude

Gradually, the BJP bosses realised they had bet on the wrong horse. The Supreme Court made things more difficult for the BJP by ordering an immediate trust vote by open ballot on November 27. Ajit Pawar and Fadnavis resigned soon after.

This political thriller was scripted, choreographed and directed by Sharad Pawar. The legendary scriptwriter duo of Salim-Javed would have felt nervous watching Sharad as he used Ajit as a Trojan horse, twice: First, ostensibly, against the NCP and then, against the BJP! Who eventually fooled whom in the Maharashtra thriller? This question has been comprehensively answered by the turn of events as Shiv Sena is set to get the Maharashtra CM’s post for the third time after Manohar Joshi and Narayan Rane. Uddhav will become the first from the Thackeray family to assume public office.

main_ajit-pawar_pti_112819115004.jpgThe senior Pawar used Ajit as a Trojan horse, twice. First, against the NCP and then against the BJP. (Photo: PTI)

Uddhav wins

The political reverberations of the developments in Maharashtra are bound to be significant at the national level. The BJP has lost a major state. Now, on its own, the BJP is ruling only three major states: Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Karnataka. Now, BJP commands 40 per cent of India’s states, down from 71 per cent in end-2017. The Opposition will inevitably get a spring in its feet, spelling more trouble for the BJP. It may impact the upcoming Assembly polls, beginning with Jharkhand next month.

Meanwhile, the evolution of Thackeray has been truly amazing. For someone who never contested any election and never held any administrative or government post, the story of the 59-year-old becoming CM of a big state such as Maharashtra seems like stuff straight out of a fairy tale. What is the roadmap for Thackeray and the Shiv Sena-NCPCongress’ Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA)? His immediate focus will be on farmers’ distress and loan waivers.

PM Modi’s dream project of a bullet train between Mumbai and Ahmedabad may get derailed as the MVA government may stop funds for the project. The Thackeray government may also reopen investigations into the death of special CBI Judge Brijgopal Harkishan Loya, if it feels that the Centre is indulging in vendetta politics.

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

Also read: Why Ajit Pawar failed to keep Devendra Fadnavis afloat


Rajeev Sharma Rajeev Sharma @kishkindha

The writer is an independent journalist and a strategic analyst.

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