The Election Commission’s decision to hold the pending elections to the Maharashtra legislative council on May 21 well before the last date for Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to get elected as a legislator to remain legally eligible to hold the high office is clearly a result of the Shiv Sena leader’s SOS to Prime Minister Modi to that effect a day prior. The decision followed Governor B.S. Koshyari’s letter to the poll panel requesting them to hold the elections to nine vacant seats in the council which fell vacant on April 24. That it is ostensiblythe Prime Minister’s intervention that has saved Uddhav’s ‘gaddi’ would presumably come in handy at an appropriate time for both leaders. The Maharashtra legislative council elections had earlier been delayed over the coronavirus endemic. When Uddhav spoke to Modion phone, he had complained that attempts were being made to inject political uncertainty in the State. Now, the decks have been cleared for Uddhav to continue. Significantly, when Governor Koshyari was dragging his feet on nominating Uddhav against one of the twonominated seats that were under his quota for selection, his Kerala counterpart, Justice (retd) Sathasivam had indicated that he was bound by the Maharashtra cabinet’s advice rendered once and rejected and then put forth the second time. Koshyari’s advice to the Election Commission to hold the pending elections to the legislative council has averted a constitutional crisis.
The net result of the defusing of a burgeoning crisis will be that any re-alignment of political forces in Maharashtra would have to wait for now. There had been reports that Ajit Pawar, with encouragement from his leader Sharad Pawar was preparing to step into Uddhav’s shoes, taking advantage of the latter’s failure to get elected in the stipulated time until May 28 when the current chief minister’s six months after his swearing-in were to be completed. Congressmen, too, were looking to foist their nominee in the chief ministerial chairtaking advantage of the vacuum that was likely to be created. Now, all those moves have been rendered infructuous. Uddhav’s silent detractors will now have to look for another pretext and opportunity to displace him. While Uddhav’s track record as chief minister has been soiled somewhat by Maharashtra’s inability to slow down the ferocity of the corona pandemic, there are no other tell-tale signs of his failure at the head of the coalition in Maharashtra. Uddhav’s seeming equation with Modi has also opened up the possibility of the revival at some stage of a new alliance between the BJP and the Shiv Sena.