The situation in Maharashtra is riveting. As 6 Things had reported here earlier, BJP had pulled off a coup earlier this week — with BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis and a rogue Ajit Pawar from NCP forming the state Government and being sworn in during the wee hours of the morning. Events, however, took another unprecedented turn on Tuesday evening — when Ajit Pawar summarily resigned from his brief stint as a Deputy Chief Minister and went back to NCP — forcing Fadnavis to give up his claim to power. By all accounts, Uddhav Thackarey is set to become the next Chief Minister of the state at the helm of the current Congress-NCP-Shiv Sena alliance. (But one never knows!)
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The month-long saga of Maharashtra’s volatile politics seems to have finally ended on Tuesday.
“Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis of the Bharatiya Janata Party resigned, just three days after he was sworn in before dawn on Saturday. His announcement came hours after Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, a renegade from the Nationalist Congress Party, stepped down. Fadnavis held a press conference on Tuesday afternoon admitting that he did not have the numbers to form a government in the 288-member house.
Ajit Pawar’s uncle, Nationalist Congress Party founder Sharad Pawar, marshaled his resources and sought support from the Shiv Sena to literally round up his party’s Members of Legislative Assembly. Together, the three parties held a “We are 162” event on Monday, insisting that they had sufficient numbers to go past the 145-seat halfway mark in the Assembly.”
It is also important to remember that BJP has tried this method of gaining power before. And it has generally managed to claw its way back to power even after initial setbacks.
“The experience of two other states is instructive here: in Bihar, the Janata Dal (United) combined with the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress to form a government, only to split up and return to the BJP midway through the term. In Karnataka, though the BJP had egg on its face after Yeddyurappa’s failed attempt to take charge, it clawed its way back to power, bringing enough Opposition MLAs over to its side within a year of the election result.
The BJP, with 105 seats, is a strong Opposition party, one that will pounce on every opportunity to provoke squabbles between the alliance partners and draw support to its side. How long will the coalition last?”
The current U-turn in Mahrashtra’s politics should also clearly be seen as Sharad Pawar’s decisive win against his wily nephew.
“In the past twenty years, Ajit Pawar has raised a rebellion, thrown a tantrum, and even acted in a way that showed him as a sulking leader, but had never taken out the daggers against his uncle.
In that sense, the Saturday midnight coup – in which Fadnavis took oath as chief minister with Ajit Pawar as his deputy – was one heck of an attempt to deny Sharad Pawar a shot at regaining Mumbai. By seeking to take control of the NCP legislature party, Ajit posed a direct challenge to his uncle’s political credibility and writ over the party.
Supriya Sule’s prescient message that morning, (‘a split in the party and family’) summed up the mood, but for Sharad the question of the family split wasn’t all that important – he would deal with it later. The priority was to control the political damage and possibly reverse it.
By late afternoon, just before the NCP legislature party was to meet, he sent his two emissaries to begin a dialogue with Ajit, stem defections, and bring back at least a dozen MLAs. Numbers in-tact, he then removed Ajit from the legislature party leadership’s post, a move that would eventually make Fadnavis’ floor test difficult. He kept his allies in the loop all this while.
For two days, while the BJP took a great risk of banking upon the nephew, the uncle banked upon his own experience and close aides to bring back the bird gone astray.
“I’ve seen it before,” Pawar said Saturday at a joint press conference with Uddhav Thackeray, who looked stressed and worried. It was a calm Pawar who said, “There is no cause for worry.””
So, what now?
As this past week has shown, the Maharashtra political landscape is anything but predictable. By all accounts, Uddhav Thackarey should be sworn in as the Chief Minister soon — but frankly, anything is possible at this stage.
Keep your eyes on this space. We’ll keep you updated.