Friday, February 3rd, 2023 14:51:27

Decoding Maharashtra Politics

By Manoj Dubey
Updated: July 8, 2022 10:32 am

Balasaheb Thakeray was born in Pune in 1926. He began his career as a cartoonist in early 1950s for the Free Press journal in Bombay. His cartoons also appeared in Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun and in Sunday edition of The New York Times. He started working for weekly Marathi Journal ‘Marmik’ with his brother and polemicized against the influence of outsiders in Maharashtra.

In 1966, he founded Shiv Sena. It was a right wing pro-Marathi Hindu nationalist party. He never held any official post and was regarded as the most powerful man of Maharshtra. He was better known as the ‘Godfather of Maharashtra’ or ‘Hindu Hridaysamrat’ to his followers. With the passage of time, Shiv Sena became a major political force in Maharshtra. In 1995 the BJP – Shiv Sena coalition government was formed. The city of Bombay was renamed as Mumbai (The goddess of Mumba Devi).

The saffron parties BJP and Shiv Sena officially aligned in 1989 with the unified cause of Hindutva and both the parties contested the Lok Shabha and the Assembly Elections together. In 2004, Uddhav Thakeray, the son of Balasaheb became the President of Shiv Sena. He was never a popular leader like his father. Raj Thackeray, the nephew of Balasaheb left Shiv Sena and formed another Party called the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS). This party does not have much base in the state. Balsaheb passed away in 2012 and the bond between these parties started weakening.

NCP (Nationalist Congress Party) was founded in 1999 by Sharad Pawar, P. A. Sangma and Tariq Anwar (all Congress leaders) after they opposed the Italian born Sonia Gandhi leading the Congress party. Sharad Pawar emerged as a strong leader in Maharashtra.

The current scenario: In the 2019 assembly elections in Maharashtra, BJP won 105, Shiv Sena 56, NCP 54 and Congress 44 seats. Shiv Sena claimed that they were promised 50:50 formula in the cabinet. However, BJP denied having made any such promise and BJP refused to accept Chief Minister from Shiv Sena and the alliance between these two partners came to an end.

And finally, Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress came together to form MVA (Maha Vikas Aghadi). Uddhav Thackeray was sworn in as the Chief Minister of Maharashtra. Because of the influence of Sharad Pawar, the important portfolios were allocated to NCP. This was completely an unholy alliance as they all fought against each other in the elections and these three parties are ideologically different. The public mandate was for BJP-Shiv Sena alliance. At the time of alliance formation of this government, the political experts had predicted that this unprincipled alliance will not last.
We all remember the case of MP (independent) Navneet Rana and her husband also a politician and MLA (independent). They were charged with NSA because they wanted to recite HANUMAN CHALISA in front of the CM’s house. They were arrested and put in the jail for a few days. This was done at the behest of alliance partners which made Shiv Sena MLAs unhappy, because it was against the Hindutva ideology. Balasaheb would never have accepted it. He once said that any alliance with Congress will mean the end of Shiv Sena.

And as expected the dissidence amongst the Shiv Sena MLAs started as they were feeling ignored by the Chief Minister. Eknath Shinde was their leader, who took them from Bombay to Surat and then Surat to Guwahati. The number of dissidents increased gradually and they were joined by some independent MLAs. It appears that the BJP was behind the scene and they were kept in the BJP ruled states of Gujarat and Assam.

Uddhav Thackeray proved to be a weak leader who was not able to keep the MLAs in his confidence. He also deviated from the basic Hindutva ideology of Shiv Sena. State assembly did not have a Speaker. The whip issued by Shiv Sena was defied by the dissident MLAs. The Deputy Speaker issued disqualification notice to 16 MLAs which was challenged in the Supreme Court.

Uddhav Thackeray was in minority because he was deserted by a majority of his MLAs. Now BJP comes into the picture. Devendra Fadnavis met the governor and asked for the floor test. The governor directed the government to prove its majority on the floor of the house on 30th June 2020.The government went to the Supreme Court challenging the governor’s orders. The Supreme Court refused to grant any relief and finally Uddhav Thakeray resigned. Sanjay Raut’s language and content proved to be counterproductive for any reconciliation in this matter.
These MLAs travelled from Guwahati to Goa. After the resignation of Uddhav Thackeray, Fadnavis and Shinde met the Governor and staked the claim to form the new government. The Governor invited them to form the government. It was apparent from the media reports that Fadnavis will be the CM and Eknath Shinde would be the Dy CM. At the press conference, to the surprise of all, Devendra Fadnavis announced that Sihnde would be Chief Minister and the BJP will support from outside. After sometime J P Nadda, the President of BJP, announced (again a surprise! ) that the BJP will be a part of the government and Devendra Fadnavis would be the Deputy CM. Indeed, it was a real shock to Devendra Fadnavis and visibly he was looking disturbed. It was a clear demotion for him.

As per the political analysts, the BJP has made Shinde as the CM to dilute the Shiv Sena headed by Uddhav Thackeray, promote HIdutva ideology and focus on BMC, Assembly and Lok Sabha in the coming elections.
Shinde, 58, is a grassroot leader. He started as a Shakha Pramukh in Thane, was elected to Thane Municipal Corporation twice, as legislator four times and twice as a minister.

Devendra Fadnavis will be in the government as a guardian. He will be able to co-ordinate between the two parties and keep a balance in the working of the Shinde government.

There are challenges for Uddhav Thackeray also, for instance, to retain BMC, to prevent Shiv Sena from going to Shinde’s control and to come back to Hindutva.

NCP has base in some parts of Maharashtra and the party largely depends on Sharad Pawar. The Congress Party has nothing to lose or gain.

This change of government in Maharashtra has come as a surprise to all the political analysts and to Sharad Pawar as well.

One hopes this new dispensation completes the remaining term and delivers as per the aspirations of the people of Maharashtra.

Devendra Fadnavis has been made the scapegoat in this episode. Whether this step of the BJP is a masterstroke or a self-goal, and Sena belongs to Shinde or Thakeray, only time will tell!

The writter is Principal (Retd) Delhi Public Schools.


By Manoj Dubey

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