The ongoing political turmoil in Maharashtra has deepened with the latest announcement by Bharatiya Janata Party on Sunday, November 10, that it does not have the required numbers to form the government. Speculations are rife that the state is set to have a new government, put together by an interesting friendship. According to the talk in the town, Shiv Sena would be forming the government Nationalist Congress Party’s support. Congress is yet to decide whether to join the government or support it. What is becoming clear is that these parties are coming together to keep the Bharatiya Janata Party out of power.
In the afternoon on Monday, NCP leader Sharad Pawar and Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray met in Mumbai. Pawar was accompanied by senior leaders Ajit Pawar, Dilip Walse Patil and Sunil Tatkare. According to sources, Uddhav requested Pawar to support Sena. It was decided, according to sources, that Uddhav will call Congress Chief Sonia Gandhi and seek her support.
Meanwhile, at the same time, Uddhav’s personal assistant Milind Narvekar and Rajya Sabha MP Anil Desai met Congress leader Ahmed Patel in Delhi. “In the meeting, Uddhav and Pawar discussed all the possibilities and Cabinet-sharing options. It was then decided that Uddhav will be the CM and NCP leader Ajit Pawar will be made deputy CM. There was a lot of discussion on how the government can be stabilised for the next five years. They also discussed their manifestos and it was decided that they will work out a common minimum programme, which will be adapted once the government is formed, to ensure that there is no clash of ideologies while running the government,” said a senior NCP leader, while speaking to NewsClick.
Nawab Malik, NCP spokesperson, had said earlier in the day that they were willing to form a non-BJP government. Following this meet, Sonia Gandhi has reportedly told Thackeray that she will have a one-on-one conversation with all the 44 MLAs of the party from the state and will convey her decision then.
In the absence of Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut, Shiv Sena’s backroom strategists Anil Desai, Anil Parab and Milind Narvekar held the fort for documentation, making calls, planning meetings with Pawar and being in touch with Congress in Delhi and Maharashtra. Pawar, Supriya Sule, Praful Patel, Chaggan Bhujbal, NCP state president Jayant Patil, etc. were stationed at Yashwantrao Chavan Pratishthan in Mumbai.
On Sunday, when the governor of Maharashtra invited BJP to form the government, the right-wing party announced that it had failed to gather the numbers required to form the government. In the Assembly of 288 members, BJP has 105 MLAs and the support of 11 independents. The number required to form the government, however, is 144. But BJP, despite all possible efforts under the sun, has failed to reach the point.
On the other hand, Shiv Sena, which was a pre-election alliance partner of the BJP is set to form the government, perhaps with the help of Congress and NCP. Sena has 56 MLAs and support of 8 independent. With the support from NCP’s 54, the alliance reaches 118, which is more than BJP’s 116. Also, Congress with 44 MLAs would either join the alliance or support Sena from outside to lead the government. With this, the number goes to 162, which would be a stable majority government.
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The BJP-Shiv Sena combine had 161 MLAs, which would have been enough to give the majority for forming the government. But according to Sena leadership, the key issue of CM’s post was ignored by BJP. It was earlier decided in both parties that they will share the CM post for 2.5 years each. But BJP turned from its word resulting in Sena breaking off the alliance with BJP.
Meanwhile, Sena’s minister in the Union Government Arawind Sawant has resigned on Monday. This is the first condition of Congress and NCP to support Sena to lead government. “We are getting the CM’s post here in Maharashtra. What is there in that heavy industry department (which Sawant was leading in the Centre)? Nothing of use. We can resign anytime,” said a Sena leader from Mumbai.
Interestingly, this development is being perceived in various ways. The first narrative is that secular parties have betrayed their politics by supporting the right wing Sena. But there are two other angles to this development.
Political analyst Jatin Desai said, “The oldest alliance of Hindutva politics has been divided and weakened with this new equation. This is happening on the next day of the Ram Temple verdict. Ram Temple has been the most prominent issue driven by Hindutva forces in this country. But Sena quitting the NDA is, in a way, a jolt to electoral politics of Hindutva forces.”
The other angle is that Sena’s decision indicates the impact of the SC verdict on the Babri Masjid title dispute on the ground. Senior journalist Padmabhushan Deshpande told, “Had there been any craze among the followers of Hindutva, Sena couldn’t have gathered the courage to quit. But as it is quitting, it shows that people are not that enthusiastic, especially in Maharashtra, over the politics of Ram Temple.”
Another way to look at it is that this could be a beginning of isolating the BJP, which is indicated by political analyst Suhas Palashikar’s tweet, “Mandate is a loosely used word in our electoral politics. Small numeric advantage is not mandate. Let’s keep that word out and consider the art of coalition making and keeping as necessity for government formation.”
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Not only that, the latest development will go down as a very important turning point in the history of Maharashtra’s politics. Right before, BJP was confident of forming the government, so much so that the outgoing Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had even said that for him the Opposition was almost invisible. He had predicted 230+ seats for the BJP – Sena alliance. He had even said that this will be the end of Sharad Pawar’s political career. The saffron party’s strategy of contesting on nationalist politics based on Article 370, however, seems to have backfired.