Non-BJP govt: The idea that changed the political scenario in Maharashtra

Updated on Nov 27, 2019 06:32 AM IST
During its tenure, the BJP remained aggressive against rival political parties. Consequently, the newly-elected legislators of the Congress and NCP were keen to keep the party out of power.
Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and NCP chief Sharad Pawar during meeting of Shiv Sena , NCP and Congress alliance, Mumbai, on Tuesday, November 26, 2019.(HT Photo)
Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and NCP chief Sharad Pawar during meeting of Shiv Sena , NCP and Congress alliance, Mumbai, on Tuesday, November 26, 2019.(HT Photo)
Hindustan Times, Mumbai | ByFaisal Malik and Surendra P Gangan, Mumbai

The coming together of the three parties – Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress – began with NCP supremo Sharad Pawar’s idea that a non-BJP government could be formed in Maharashtra. He took the lead to convince the Congress leadership to come on board despite its apprehensions about an alliance with a right-wing party like the Shiv Sena.

When the talks were about to conclude, his nephew and then NCP legislative leader Ajit Pawar chose to revolt and form a government with BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis on Saturday.

This changed the political situation completely, but the three parties remained together in their animosity towards the BJP, which was built-up over the past five years.

During its tenure, the BJP remained aggressive against rival political parties. Consequently, the newly-elected legislators of the Congress and NCP were keen to keep the party out of power. Ally Uddhav Thackeray, too, took a firm stand that he would not settle for anything less than the chief ministership for half the tenure, which the BJP was not willing to part with. Thackeray’s aides said he was fed up playing the younger brother to the BJP.

As the first step, they decided to keep their flock together and prevent all MLAs from being poached. The Sena’s labour unions came to their rescue.

The Congress decided to take the legal battle in hand with two senior leaders — Abhishek Singhvi and Kapil Sibal — appearing before the Supreme Court, requesting for immediate floor test and no secret ballot voting.

Former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan monitored the hearing in the apex court by camping in New Delhi. Finally, the apex court ordered a floor test on Wednesday with live telecast and no secret ballot. This ensured there was no horse trading for voting on the confidence motion.

“The legal battle was mainly spearheaded by Congress’s two leaders. Their earlier experience in Karnataka and Goa cases, which were similar in nature, made the fight easier. The second big challenge was keeping the MLAs together. The split within the Congress and Sena was unlikely, but bringing the NCP MLAs who had gone with Ajit Pawar and keeping other MLAs united was a task,” said a Congress leader.

The coordination between the top leaders of the three parties was impressive. Pawar, Thackeray and Congress leader Ahmed Patel stayed in touch. Other leaders too worked together, leaving the past behind.

An idea of a grand show of unity, ‘We are 162’, was floated apart from regular meetings between the top leaders. On Monday evening, 158 legislators of the three parties were presented before media.

Pawar also used the occasion to counter the BJP’s argument that Ajit was the group leader of the NCP in legislature and had the authority to issue a whip to the party legislators. The idea was to convince the legislators to vote against BJP.

Prakash Bal, political analyst, said the BJP’s haste and overconfidence in Ajit Pawar by believing that the latter rules the NCP legislative party led to this day.

“The unity among the three parties (Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress) played a major role, but it also came from the haste shown by the BJP in removing the President’s rule and getting chief minister (Devendra
Fadnavis) and deputy chief minister (Ajit Pawar) sworn in early Saturday morning,” Bal said.

“Both BJP and Ajit Pawar undermined the political acumen of the NCP chief and the Supreme Court’s
decision proved to be a decisive factor in the political battle.”

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