Some takeaways from Maharashtra government formation
With many fast-paced political developments headquartered in Mumbai all month so that Maharashtra can have a government, what else would Mumbaiites discuss? The ridiculously high price of onions, next movie release or job? Most of it circles back to politics. The shenanigans are confusing, but there are some takeaways.
The BJP and Shiv Sena contested the Assembly election together, secured a majority in the 288-member legislature, but could not form the government. What should have been an open-and-shut case has lingered into its fifth week because the Sena upped its fight with its partner after the results – for its own survival. The Congress and NCP together won 98 seats, were willing to play the good Opposition, but will now be partnering with the Sena in the new Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi government. Mandate means nothing. The Sena, which proudly wore the badge of belligerent Hindutva for 30 years, and the Congress, which swears by secularism, made common cause. It’s complicated.
To cut through the clutter, they were driven by a single-point agenda of keeping a predatory BJP away from power. And Sharad Pawar fused the ideological opponents into an alliance along with his NCP. There’s a good reason he’s been called strongman, boss-man, master strategist and more; he gave a practical demonstration of political manoeuvring to generations that did not associate gladiatorial skills with the portly grandfather.
Last Friday night, they were all set to form the government. Next morning, BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis and Pawar’s impetuous nephew, Ajit, had been sworn in. People move fast in Mumbai, but even so, this was breathlessly rapid. The uncle-nephew turned into a full-blown soap opera and three constitutional heads – the Governor, President and Prime Minister – had acted in ways not befitting the offices they held. They have not offered explanations yet.
This power-at-any-cost by bending constitutional norms needed to be pushed back. This, the alliance managed to do. That’s why its opportunism and ‘five-star resort politics’ may be overlooked. There’s never a perfect solution in politics anyway. That said, status quoism and dynasties are still thriving. CM-designate Uddhav Thackeray has not ever contested an election or held office.
The so-called modern-day “Chanakya” and his “Chanakyaniti” that steamrolled all norms to form governments in other states came a cropper here. Not every politician everywhere can be bought with massive funds from electoral bonds, “Chanakya” now knows. That’s not because they are a highly principled lot, but their regional pride was shrewdly kindled. Remember “Maharashtra doesn’t bend in front of Delhi” remark”? This sub-nationalism is not going away soon. Thackeray spoke of “teaching (BJP) a lesson”. Sena men “protected” MLAs from BJP. Sena’s Abdul Sattar said “…mundi tod denge”. The Marathi versus Gujarati sentiment is back. All, triggers for social anxiety, 1990s redux.
Can Uddhav’s Sena behave now that it is in power? Mumbai is watching.