Maharashtra Stunner: The Biggest Winners And Losers 

Maharashtra Stunner: The Biggest Winners And Losers Uddhav Thackeray and Sharad Pawar (Twitter) 
Snapshot
  • No matter how things develop from here, including the unlikely possibility of BJP not passing the floor test, the last month has been an unmitigated disaster for Shiv Sena and the Thackeray family.

The uncertainty prevalent in Maharashtra since 24 October came to a sudden and surprising end when Devendra Fadnavis of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Ajit Pawar of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) were sworn-in as the chief minister and deputy chief minister, respectively.

This came as a surprise to everyone including the mainstream media which had actually declared Uddhav Thackeray as the next chief minister of the state yesterday.

After the swearing-in, NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, who had told the media that there was consensus on Uddahv’s name for chief minister, tweeted that Ajit Pawar’s decision was his own, and that NCP as a party continued to support Uddhav.

The intrigue further deepened when the Baramati MP and Pawar’s daughter, Supriya Sule changed her WhatsApp status declaring a split in party and family and could barely control her tears on camera.

The BJP leadership, however, is confident that the BJP will prove its majority on the floor of the Maharashtra Assembly before 30 November.

The political fallout of todays’ development would reverberate through the state politics for years to come. However, as things stand today, here are the winners and losers-

The biggest winner, no doubt, are the voters of Maharashtra, who would get the leader of the single largest party as the chief minister of the State.

There was widespread angst amongst voters about Shiv Sena’s betrayal of the mandate, and if a party with 105 MLAs was forced to sit in the opposition, the cynicism and anger about politics in general would have only increased. With this, the voters would be justified feeling that their vote still counts.

On the political front, Devendra Fadnavis has established himself as the numero uno in the state with this deft out-manoeuvring of the Shiv Sena.

Demonstrating exemplary decision making, Fadnavis refused to rise to the constant baiting by Shiv Sena leaders, and refused to stake claim to power when given opportunity earlier this month.

He knew time was his friend and allowed the frustration to build among the MLAs of other parties as negotiations continued to get protracted.

Fadnavis and his team bided their time carefully and performed what can only be termed as a political surgical strike at the right moment, leaving the opposition completely on the wrong foot.

With the reputation he enjoys among the rank and file of the party as well as among the masses, one can be certain that he would use his second term to cement his credentials as a national level leader.

While the uncertainty over whether Ajit Pawar represents the NCP legislative party in today’s move would take a few more hours to resolve itself, it seems somewhat unlikely that he would have taken this step without having at least a tacit consent from his uncle.

Sharad Pawar met Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier this month, and while he maintained that the meeting was about farmers’ plight due to excess rains in the state, it is possible that at least a broad outline of this deal was discussed in that meeting.

Pawar’s tweet and his joint statement with the Sena supremo today, might simply be to placate his UPA ally, and smoothen a few ruffled feathers on behalf of his sympathisers in Shiv Sena like Sanjay Raut.

Looking at senior Pawar’s track record, it seems highly unlikely that having gotten the power, he would pull the rug from under his nephew.

No matter how things develop from here, including the unlikely possibility of BJP not passing the floor test, the last month has been an unmitigated disaster for Shiv Sena and the Thackeray family.

Uddhav Thackeray depended on a relative political light-weight like Sanjay Raut for pulling what must be termed as the political coup of the 21st century in the state, and ended up losing everything including his party’s credentials as the Hindutva party.

After the initial shadow-boxing, Uddhav could have bargained hard with the BJP, got a deputy CM post for his son along with a few plum portfolios, and still continue to embarrass his senior partner by his going-rogue act, the way he has done frequently since 2014.

Instead, the Shiv Sena fumbled through the process of staking a claim, relying on the Congress and NCP to fax letters of support while the UPA allies refused to share their sense of urgency.

Even after missing out on that opportunity, Uddhav, perhaps still hopeful of the unlikely three-way alliance, refused to criticise the UPA allies.

Now he finds himself in the unenviable position of explaining to his MLAs how his party, in spite of winning the elections in an alliance, has managed to lose power in the state as well as the lone cabinet portfolio at the centre.

Many positions taken by Shiv Sena leaders in the last two weeks, such as supporting the hooliganism of JNU students, has dented their perception as a Hindutva party forever.

The late Balasaheb Thackeray had carefully cultivated an aura around himself and his family by never stepping out of his residence for political meetings.

Uddhav, who had maintained the same since 2012, lost that too by going to a hotel to meet Congress leaders and then meeting Sharad Pawar at the latter’s residence.

When your party derives a large part of its power from the halo surrounding your name, these are irreversible damages that will continue to haunt the Thackerays.

As the aggressive statements from BJP leaders like Girish Mahajan and Chandrakant Patil suggest, the possibility of a split among Shiv Sena MLAs can’t be ruled out.

Even if Uddhav manages to prevent that, it is safe to say that Shiv Sena has lost their seat at the NDA table forever.

Congress’s continuous marginalisation in elections means that the party is often not discussed in situations like this. However, any analysis of this situation won’t be complete without discussing how that party’s lethargy keeps costing it political opportunities.

The lack of awareness of local situations among the central observers and their consequent meeting-ke-upar-meeting approach has backfired badly.

In an assembly where your opponent needed only one party to form the government, the Congress needed ruthlessly swift decision-making, instead, they allowed the small window of opportunity that opened due to Shiv Sena’s greed to close on them.

The possibility of more twists and turns can’t be ruled out at this moment. However, what is equally certain is that with this deft move, BJP and Devendra Fadnavis are back in the driver’s seat.

The writer is a investment services professional and novelist. His latest novel The Dark Road was published by Juggernaut Publications.

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