The jockeying for power in Maharashtra has begun. Even before the newly-elected MLAs had time to thank their electors, the Shiv Sena started to bully its senior partner which had won nearly twice the number of seats than it had. But that is Sena for you. Its entire politics all along has been premised on bullying and intimidation from the day it was born way back in the mid-60s. So, the BJP ought not to give in to the unreasonable pressure. Reports that the Sena has set terms and wants to take turns at the chief minister’s post must be scotched forthwith even before the two parties meet for government-formation.
Only after it has been categorically stated that the chief minister’s post is non-negotiable should there be further progress on the number of ministerial slots and portfolios each constituent will get in a fair and proportional representation in the new government. Posters demanding that the Sena chief’s son, Aaditya Thackeray, be made chief minister are mischievous and vitiate the atmosphere. It violates the spirit of cooperation. Without trust smooth functioning of any coalition becomes difficult. Meanwhile, comments emanating from the Congress quarters suggest that the party, buoyed by the gratuitous help received from Sharad Pawar in the campaign, might be ready to play with fire. Its reported willingness to support a Sena government would finally remove the sham fig leaf it has all along worn to assert its secular-liberal credentials. A former Congress chief minister sounded so desperate that he offered the Congress-NCP support to a Sena-led government on a platter. The BJP should whole-heartedly welcome it. Nothing will help the party more than to finally expose the real face of the Sena as a power-hungry party ready to turn its back on its Hindutva platform. Of course, it will expose the Sena as well but then such is the inherent character of the Sena that it is beyond any sort of embarrassment. The Opposition space can then be monopolised by the BJP. Of course, in politics nothing is sacrosanct.
Take, for instance, Haryana. Early reports suggested that the BJP was ready to do a deal with a clutch of independent MLAs to form government. Among them was the controversial Gopal Kanda who is facing criminal charges in a case of suicide by one of the women working for his now defunct airline. Kanda is one of the ten independent MLAs and was brought in a chartered flight to meet the party boss, Amit Shah, soon after it became clear that the BJP was at least six short of the half-way mark. The BJP was foremost in criticising Kanda when the suicide of the young woman first hit headlines. At the time, he was a senior minister in the Bhupinder Singh Hooda Government but had to be dropped following BJP protests. Embracing the same Kanda, especially when the criminal case was still being heard, would have been highly embarrassing for the BJP. It turned out the initial exercise to tie up with the independents was actually a ruse to force the 10-member Jannayak Janta Party to come down from its high horse. The BJP and the JJP have now agreed to form a government with JJP leader Dushyant Chautala as deputy chief minister. As a legatee of the Devilal clan, whose party had been a partner of the BJP in the State, it symbolizes continuation of the Jat-non-Jat partnership. In this poll, the Jats had joined hands to defeat the BJP, angry that a non-Jat had usurped the chief minister’s post which they believed was exclusively reserved for one of them. Besides, Devilal and his son, Om Prakash Chautla, Dushyant’s grandfather, have always opposed the Congress Party.
Meanwhile, given that nearly a fortnight is available to the various players in Maharashtra to bargain for various loaves and fishes of office, care should be taken to demarcate the terms of power-sharing in unambiguous terms. If either partner finds it hard to follow the coalition dharma he should be ready to leave or be ejected out of government. Only then a coalition government can function purposefully. Constant sniping at the partner detracts from good governance. Maharashtra faces several economic crises. A perennial lack of irrigation, poor rainwater storage in the hinterland, rural debt, civic decay in Mumbai and other urban centers, etc., require the undivided attention of the new government. If the coalition partners are constantly engaged in brinkmanship, ordinary people will suffer. Give them hope, give them good governance.