A lesson for the BJP in Maharashtra
With Devendra Fadnavis’ resignation as the Maharashtra chief minister (CM) on Tuesday afternoon, following the resignation of his deputy CM Ajit Pawar and the Supreme Court’s order to hold a floor test by Wednesday, a sordid political chapter in the state has drawn to an end. The episode has lessons for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) both at the Centre and in the state, as well as for Governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari.
When BJP’s oldest ally, the Shiv Sena, walked away from the alliance, the BJP rightly told the governor it did not have the numbers to form the government and stayed away as the other parties sought to construct an alliance. At that point, the BJP had the moral high ground. It could argue that it was the single largest party, yet its pre-poll partner had betrayed the mandate. But over the past week, as the Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), and Congress came close to an opportunistic pact, the BJP jumped right back in the game. Citing the support of Ajit Pawar, then the NCP’s legislative party leader, it staked claim to form the government, with an only-too-eager Mr Koshiyari swearing in Mr Fadnavis and Mr Pawar on Saturday morning. As it became clear that Ajit Pawar was acting unilaterally, and did not have the sanction of his uncle, NCP’s chief, Sharad Pawar, the arithmetic seemed ranged against the BJP, eventually leading to Mr Fadnavis’ resignation.
The BJP now comes across as having acted unwisely. It no longer has the moral high ground — for it was willing to ally with a leader who it had relentlessly accused of corruption, merely for the sake of power. It showed haste in forming the government, because without Sharad Pawar, it would always have been difficult to get the numbers. Mr Koshiyari has come across as willing to act on behalf of the BJP, rather than as an independent constitutional functionary, by hastily swearing in the government. The BJP government at the Centre, too, bypassed process in recommending the revocation of President’s rule without holding a Cabinet meeting, in the early hours of the morning. All this did not help, as Mr Fadnavis did not have the numbers, much like BS Yeddyuruppa when he staked claim following the Karnataka elections in 2018, only to resign before the floor test. To be sure, the Sena-NCP-Congress alliance represents the coming together of disparate partners, and it is not clear if it will deliver coherent governance or be stable. But it is the BJP which has the most to learn from the failure in Maharashtra.