It is an enigma why the Narendra Modi government at the Centre is so passive towards the Maharashtra government for its failure to tackle the coronavirus crisis with the number of afflicted cases and fatalities spiralling out of control in the State. As of Thursday, Maharashtra had recorded 41,642 coronavirus cases, the highest in the country. Of these, 11,726 patients had recovered while fatalities were at 1,454. What is particularly significant is that there is virtually no criticism by the Centre of the Uddhav Thackeray government’s apparent mishandling of the crisis even as there is such a hue and cry over the poor show by the West Bengal government amid allegations that the Mamata Banerjee government is deliberately under-quoting the figures to show that things are under control. There is indeed seemingly a cosy relationship between the Centre and the Maharashtra government even though the western state is governed by a coalition of the Shiv Sena, the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). As if to deny this comfort level, the BJP unit in Mumbai for the record organised a protest on Friday, imploring the Mumbaiites to come out into their balconies wearing black masks holding placards against the poor handling of the pandemic by the Thackeray government.
The Centre’s failure in calling the Uddhav Thackeray government to account may well have something to do with its cherished hope that some day in the foreseeable future the Shiv Sena would snap links with the Congress and NCP and re-align with the BJP to share power with it. It is quite on the cards that Uddhav is dangling the carrot of ditching the current coalition for the BJP. Where any deal could flounder is if Uddhav bargains to make his son Aaditya the chief minister in a new coalition with BJP. The other option is for the BJP to break up the Shiv Sena and form a government with support of a group of legislators who may break away from the parent party on the lines of Karnataka and more recently Madhya Pradesh. Uddhav Thackeray has to reckon with the fact that his stock with the electorate would have dipped with his failure to stem the tide of Coronavirus deaths. The coalition with the Congress and NCP may be an albatross around his neck. As it is, he can hardly expect to continue to enjoy the support of the Hindutva brigade if he remains with the current coalition. There is still time for the next Assembly polls but this is the time for Uddhav to ponder and reflect. As for the BJP, it has a fair chance of bouncing back in the elections, riding on an anti-establishment vote.