BJP's new politics of renunciation

The decision of the Bharatiya Janata Party to support rebel Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde to form the government in Maharashtra serves a dual purpose for the party.

Abhay MokashiUpdated: Friday, July 01, 2022, 12:07 AM IST
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The decision of the Bharatiya Janata Party to support rebel Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde to form the government in Maharashtra serves a dual purpose for the party. Primarily, the BJP has settled its score with Uddhav Thackeray for ditching the BJP and forming a government with the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). This also endorses the charges by some of Uddhav Thackeray’s loyalists that the BJP wants to wipe out the Thackeray family from the political scenario in the state. It is more than clear now, that the rebellion in the Shiv Sena was engineered by the BJP by giving the rebel legislators led by Eknath Shinde all logistical support, culminating in the support to form the government.

With its decision, the BJP has also sent a signal that it can go to any extent to make sacrifices for the sake of Hindutva. The rebel Shiv Sena legislators have already been condemning party head Uddhav Thackeray for giving up Hindutva to get power.

However, the BJP did not take a similar decision when Thackeray was adamant on sharing power with the BJP, with both parties getting to have its candidates as chief minister on a 50:50 basis of the five-year term. Had the BJP agreed to that two-and-a-half years ago, Shinde would anyway have become the chief minister in the latter half of the five-year term of the CM’s office. But such a move would not have caused damage to the Shiv Sena, the way it has been caused now.

By extending support to the Shinde group to form the government, the BJP will be able to keep Shinde’s government on tenterhooks, since it will have an abysmal minority in the House. Shinde will have to follow instructions from Fadnavis and his party while carrying out his duties as the chief minister. Even otherwise, Shinde will always remain obliged to BJP and Fadnavis.

For Fadnavis it is a case of once bitten, twice shy. In the background of the disaster when he headed the Maharashtra government for 72 hours with the support of Ajit Pawar of the NCP, Fadnavis would not have liked to take the risk of forming the government with a slender majority thanks to the support of the Shinde group. The fate of the rebel Shiv Sena legislators hangs fire, as it depends on the decision of the Supreme Court on the disqualification notice against the 16 by the Deputy Speaker of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly. If Fadnavis had formed the government, the disqualification of the legislators would have led to a second-time embarrassment for him. Hence, it is appropriate for him and his party to support Shinde to form the government.

The same will be the situation of the Shinde government. If the 16 legislators are disqualified, Shinde will not have majority support in the House and his government will have to be dismissed. Yet, after all that he and his followers have done to topple the Uddhav Thackeray led government, Shinde was left with no choice, but to stake claim to form the government as suggested by Fadnavis.

On the other hand, Uddhav Thackeray’s troubles have not ended with his resignation as the chief minister and as member of the Legislative Council. That is just a small battle he has lost; he now has to prepare for a bigger war – that being to protect his party from getting out of his hold.

By sending in his resignation after the Supreme Court ordered that the floor test be held as announced by Maharashtra Governor, for Thackeray to prove that his government has the majority support in the House, the then Chief Minister proved that he is not a professional politician.

It was amply clear that he would have lost the floor test and no earthly or heavenly power could have saved his government. A floor test is an opportunity for a head of the government to put on record the work of her/his government and views on the political situation. Thackeray has repeatedly stated that he was betrayed by his own people, but that has not gone on the record of the proceedings of the House.

A seasoned politician would have made a fiery speech explaining the circumstances under which s/he and the party had to align with other parties to form the government. No leader would say that the formation of the political alliance and the government was for personal gains. Politicians the world over contest elections, form alliances and governments, or take political decisions only in the interests of the nation and the people. Shinde and Fadnavis have done the same.

The initial decision of staying out of the government and supporting Shinde’s candidature for the post of Chief Minister, was to send a message to the masses that the party is not after power. Had the BJP staked claim to form the government and proposed Devendra Fadnavis’ candidature as Chief Minister, the public at large would have believed that the rebellion was engineered to grab power.

No party would like to give up power so easily, so things moved in Delhi and the BJP leadership ordered Fadnavis to join the government. It sends a clear political message that a subordinate cannot be allowed to be more powerful than the leader. Fadnavis’ wings have been clipped in a way, by asking him to be the Deputy Chief Minister.

(The author is a senior journalist and media trainer. He tweets at @a_mokashi)

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