Strange bed-fellows in Maharashtra government,

Uddhav gets dream job

Maharashtra state of India has presented a peculiar situation after the Assembly elections in November. After more than a month of going and coming, tough bargaining and a shameless exhibition of naked hunger of power by the Shiv Sena resulted in strange bed-fellows with divergent policies coming together to form a government.

Abandoning some three decades of close association with the Bharatiya Janata Party, the staunch Hindu party Shiv Sena joined the opposition ‘secular’ parties -  Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) of Sharad Pawar and Sonia Gandhi’s Congress  - to form the government. SS founder, the late  Bal Thackeray’s soul must be extremely unhappy to see his son Uddhav ditching BJP and in his hunger for power joining hands with arch rivals Congress and NCP.

Uddhav has taken over as Chief Minister and made a three-party alliance (Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi) in the state.

This development had its own sordid drama when Uddhav first started bargaining with BJP that got 105 seats in the 288 seat assembly. SS had 56 seats , NCP 54 and Congress only 44. Uddhav’s tough talk centered on sharing power equally (50-50) with BJP and getting the Chief Minister’s post first. He was then promoting his son Aaditya , who may join his Cabinet later.

Earlier another drama had unfolded with Sharad Pawar’s nephew Ajit, suddenly joining BJP group claiming the support of all the 54 NCP MLAs. The then BJP Chief Minister, Devendra Fadnavis, lost no time in welcoming this development and appointing Ajit, who was the leader of NCP group in the newly elected assembly, as Deputy Chief Minister. This list was even presented to Governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari to assert their claim to form the government.

The three-day drama had its final curtain up when Ajit with his group again changed colors, rejoined his uncle’s party to see Shiv Sena’s successful bargaining with the other two parties getting Uddhav his dream job as Chief Minister.

Naturally, the behind the scene maneuvering by the wily politician Sharad Pawar and his scheming abilities turned the tables on BJP. Pawar got the nod from Sonia Gandhi and Chief Minister Fadnavis had to resign and make way for the strange coalition of totally divergent parties. Pawar had also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi -   we don’t know what proposal he had that did not succeed. 

The outcome  of the single largest party, BJP, deprived of forming and continuing the coalition government with Shiv Sena was bitter. Being badly betrayed by Shiv Sena that compromised with parties whose policies, utterances and agenda had no similarities with BJP-Shiv Sena policies and vision was astonishing.  It was a shock to BJP. Hope they learned a hard lesson and would go it alone in the next elections.

With the history of Congress opportunism of supporting a party and then abandoning it, one should not be sure about this coalition of strange bedfellows going the full term. The only thing that could keep them together is their newfound combined resolve to keep BJP out of power in Maharashtra.

Uddhav Thackeray, with no experience of administration, but with determination to bargain, assert and show his confidence started with stopping Aarey Colony Metro car shed project and sanctioning Rs. 20 crore rupees to conserve the old capital and fort of Shivaji Maharaj at Raigarh. Were these two in larger public interest, and worth spending taxpayer-money, could be debatable.

Yet another project that is on the cards is a fitting memorial for SS founder Balasaheb in Aurangabad with a grand memorial and a garden. It is said that for this project hundreds, if not thousands of trees would have to be chopped down. No wonder, this is being seen as contradiction as Uddhav stopped the car shed because probably, more trees had to be cut down to clear the ground for the shed. Already more than 2000 trees are reported to have been chopped down.

The proposed Balasaheb memorial would remind people of what  Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Mayawati did in Uttar Pradesh. She set up memorials for her mentor/leader/close friend Kanshi Ram and herself in various cities of the state at the cost of 2600 crore of rupees (about 40 million dollars.) It was termed a scandal and the courts have taken a strict and unfavorable view of those memorial projects.  

Hope Uddhav does not closely follow the example, but you never know. Anything can happen when you have ambition, hunger for power and no hesitation to compromise with anyone and anytime abandoning your principles, policies and programs.