To look for the ideal in politics is a mug’s game. To tell the truth, politics in all ages has been opportunistic, the difference being only a matter of degree or two. So, the sordidness of the drama in Maharashtra after the Shiv Sena decided to play for the chief ministerial gaddi and broke its old alliance with the BJP has once again proven the old adage about there being no permanent friends in politics, only permanent interests. The Sena got what it wanted by allying with the Congress and the NCP. Hopefully, it would now settle down and succeed in giving the State a stable government. The chief minister-designate Uddhav Thackeray’s inexperience ought not to be a factor given that there are several ministerial veterans in the new troika. Besides, the NCP chief Sharad Pawar, 79, can always mentor the new government. It will be also essential to put behind the bitterness of the recent betrayals and back-stabbings. Ajit Pawar, whose action in momentarily jumping on the BJP back-wagon was no less staggering than the Sena’s in seeking the support of the NCP and the Congress, is back in the party his uncle founded and which he now seeks to control. Whether he will find an honourable place as a deputy chief minister or will be asked to do penance is unknown. But the mutual suspicion and distrust will linger despite the show of family unity and all-is-well by the larger Pawar clan. As for Devendra Fadnavis, he will have to take a knock or two for leading his central leadership up the garden path on the say-so of Ajit Pawar. As a result, the Prime Minister and Home Minister have had to suffer a setback. Both Modi and Shah were ill-advised to rush with supersonic speed the swearing-in of the Fadnavis government. In the process, it showed the Governor, the President and even the Union Cabinet in poor light. The upshot of this misadventure has pepped up the Opposition. The image of invincibility that the prime minster had fostered has been dimmed considerably. For the prime minister’s own sake, he ought to distance himself from unwholesome power games by the State BJP units. Even though there is no challenge to his authority, forcing a disparate Opposition to make common cause is not a clever strategy. The three-way alliance in Mumbai has served as a shot in the arm for the anti-BJP forces nationally. The BJP was right to reject the Governor’s invitation to form government in Maharashtra. It earned it a lot of goodwill. It squandered it by accepting Ajit Pawar’s claim for a tie-up. Hopefully, when the Supreme Court revisits some of the issues stemming from the Maharashtra events it would have something to say about the perfidy of pre-alliance partners betraying the alliance post-election for the sake of a bigger stake in power. In that case, ideally a re-election should be the natural course. Given that the voter in Maharashtra had returned only the BJP-Sena alliance to power, and nobody else, the apex court ought to pronounce on the democratic validity of the three-way alliance who had fought the election against one another.
Politics at this level becoming a game of musical chairs with allies freely changing partners in search of better deals needs to be curbed by a judicial fiat. If the Aya Ram, Gaya Ram syndrome is bad for stray legislators, it ought to be doubly bad for whole groups to jump from one ally to another wholly unmindful of pre-poll election manifestoes and party programmes. Such freewheeling conduct by political leaders makes a mockery of a democratic mandate. Going by the Sena insisting on the chief minister’s post and an equal share in the ministerial slots, though it had only 56 MLAs to BJP’s 105, it is a surprise the NCP with only two MLAs less than the Sena, did not insist on the chief minister’s post. Or for that matter the Congress which won only 44 seats but following the Sena lead too could have insisted on the top post. But, then, the Sena all along has had little to do with logic and commonsense. Meanwhile, the new government will have to tackle a host of problems most urgently. The State finances are under stress, the agrarian crisis has been further aggravated by a delayed monsoon, civic infrastructure in various urban areas is broken. And the Sena does not have the excuse of shifting the blame since it was an integral part of the Fadvanvis Government till it upped and gambled on the chief minister’s office. We hope the alliance proves durable and does well for the sake of all Maharashtrians.