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Analysis

Updated on: Sunday, November 24, 2019, 09:29 PM IST

Maharashtra saga: A Naked power game

Newly-appointed Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis (L), newly-appointed Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar (R) and Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari during the oath taking ceremony at Raj Bhawan in Mumbai. | Photo by ANI

Newly-appointed Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis (L), newly-appointed Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar (R) and Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari during the oath taking ceremony at Raj Bhawan in Mumbai. | Photo by ANI

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Betrayer, backstabber, murder of democracy, etc., were some of the few angry words much heard throughout on Saturday. Leaders of the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress, whose inaptitude in playing the political chess was exposed by the BJP’s Chanakayas, could barely hide their dejection, their embarrassment. They had been beaten at their own game. One of their own key leaders had crossed over just when they believed they had stitched up a winning three-way alliance, thumbed his nose at his uncle, and installed himself as Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’s deputy. Ajit Pawar’s stunning switch from the party of which he undoubtedly was the second-in-command after the founder, Sharad Pawar, had pulverized not just the chief-minister-in-waiting, the Super Sainik Uddhav Thackeray. It had taken the wind out of the sails of the entire anti-BJP Opposition in the national polity. At a time when it was beginning to see revival on the horizon, particularly after last month’s Assembly polls, the Maharashtra setback would leave it totally demoralized, nursing its wounds. In pursuing power in Maharashtra, even though its tally of 44 in the new Assembly had pushed it to the fourth position after the BJP, the Shiv Sena and the NCP, the Congress abnegated its life-long pretensions to be secular. Its willingness to sup with the rabidly Hinduwadi Sena might have been dictated by a genuine fear that its newly-elected MLAs could otherwise cross over to the winning side in the Sena-BJP struggle for government formation. Yet, the sorry saga of political permutations and combinations denuded it of its secularist credentials. It is noteworthy that while Rahul Gandhi was said to be opposed to any move to embrace the Sena, his mother and acting Congress President had no such compunction. Rahul’s team, which found itself marginalized after he quit party headship, would have reason to finger-point the old guard which had staged a comeback after Sonia Gandhi assumed charge, albeit temporary.

But to come back to the main protagonist in this sordid drama, the Sena, was let down by its burning ambition. Even though it had won half the seats the BJP had, it laid claim to chief ministership and touted a 50: 50 power-sharing formula which nobody was privy to and existed only its imagination. This was the original betrayal, an original act of backstabbing by a pre-poll ally. After this betrayal, what the BJP did to wean away Ajit Pawar pales into insignificance. The senior Pawar anyway did not evoke complete trust from any of the players involved in the power struggle. His inscrutable ways, his habit to spring a surprise at the last minute was so well-known that even when he anointed Uddhav Thackeray as the next chief minister, there were some who still kept their fingers firmly crossed. The hackneyed phrase -- a slip between the cup and the lip -- probably describes the plight of the Thackerays and their latest Sancho Panza very well. Sanjay Raut made such a mess of it, assuming to be the new king-maker in Maharashtra that his fall at the hands of Ajit Pawar would form part of the political folklore. Silence rather than constant noise emerged the winner here.

Nevertheless, Saturday marked the end of only the first act in the Maharashtra saga. In the coming days all eyes will be on the Pawars, whether the uncle was really clueless about what the nephew did or it was all scripted. But the fact that Supriya Sule tweeted, crying split in the party and family would lend credence to the senior Pawar’s complaint that he was unaware about Ajit’s switch to the BJP. If the NCP splits in the coming days, the Fadnavis-Pawar alliance will have a clear advantage insofar as it can offer ministerships to the fence-sitters whereas senior Pawar can only offer them five years on Opposition benches. Repercussions of the Saturday coup are bound to disrupt the functioning of Parliament next week. The losers will not allow the two Houses to function. This is the least they can do to protest their loss of power in Maharashtra just when it seemed to be in their grip. Meanwhile, it is pointless to talk of morality, constitutional values, gubernatorial excess, etc., when none of the players involved in the month-long drama showed any concern for the very-same principles and proprieties. It was a naked power game in which the BJP came up trumps.

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Published on: Monday, November 25, 2019, 07:00 AM IST
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