The Shiv Sena can agitate in the courts as much as it likes, but it is beyond an iota of doubt that it lacked the numbers to form the government. Once the next highest seat-getter, the NCP, pleaded inability in writing to accept Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari’s invitation to form the government, the only course available was President’s rule. Despite Maharashtra giving the BJP-Sena alliance another five years in power, the State is set to go without a popular government thanks to the perfidy of the Sena. Koshyari cannot be faulted for scrupulously following the Governor’s Manual in such situations. Sena can play the victim card, crying itself hoarse against President’s rule, but it would profit immensely if, instead, it looked itself in the mirror. Its ugly conduct betrayed its coarse character. As a political formation obsessed with nothing more than power and pelf all else has always been alien to it. Of course, nobody comes out smelling of roses from the post-poll drama in Mumbai. The largest party with 105 MLAs revealed a lack of nerve when in the face of the Sena blackmail and intimidation it tried to mollycoddle it. Instead of stating up front that neither the 50:50 share in power nor chief ministership by turns was a prior agreement, it indulged the Sena trumpeters. Devendra Fadnavis categorically rejecting the existence of any such agreement only when it became clear that the Sena was determined to play the spoilsport allowed the latter to ceaselessly propagate the falsehood. With 56 members in the new Assembly, as against the BJP’s 105, the Sena claim for an equal share in power was wholly untenable. Once Fadnavis called its bluff, informing the Raj Bhawan that he was not in a position to form the government, the Sena was left stranded in the political marketplace. Imploring the NCP and the Congress to support it was against the message of the mandate. Nonetheless, in its quest for power the Sena, the self-proclaimed votary of Hindutva, was ready to sleep with the devil. It is remarkable that the Congress leadership did not outright rule out doing business with the Sena, stringing it along when the Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray reportedly beseeched Sonia Gandhi for support for government formation. Secularism of the spurious kind practiced by the Congress Party would have claimed its highest achievement had the Congress put in place a Sena government in Mantralaya. That ultimate tribute to pseudo-secularism is still possible given that the Congress too is crying foul at the imposition of President’s rule. What prevented it from rushing with a letter of support to a Sena government before Governor Koshyari drew the curtains on act one of the Maharashtra drama is not clear, given that there were quite a few voices within the party which justified such blasphemous action on the specious ground that it would help keep the BJP out of power.
Of course, President’s rule would not prevent the Sena and others to try and cobble together numbers since the new Assembly can be constituted at short notice upon the swearing- in of a new government. Speculation that a moneybag instigated trouble for the BJP-Sena alliance may be without a basis, but Sena’s conduct after the poll outcome was inexplicable. It will have no one else but itself to blame if its contretemps destabilize the power-sharing arrangement in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, allegedly a milch cow for the Sena leadership. Also, Sena’s desperation to somehow head the next government might empower that old Maratha warhorse, Sharad Pawar, whose inscrutable ways are always hard to predict. Why would Pawar prop up a Sena government when he can profit from staying aloof or supporting a BJP government in Mumbai with an eye on relief from the Centre in a host of corruption cases against senior NCP colleagues is not clear. This sort of quid-pro-quo politics is not new but thanks to the brazenness of the Sena and other such outfits, its practice has become more crude, more blatant in recent times. Maharashtra needs a representative government what with serious problems of agrarian distress, incomplete irrigation projects, breakdown of civic infrastructure in Mumbai and other urban areas, joblessness, etc., awaiting urgent attention. Hopefully, the central rule will be brief, giving Sena reason to come down from its high horse. It cannot bully and intimidate its way into the top post in Maharashtra. Street-power does not always translate into political power. Calm reflection and retrospection ought to lead it to retrace its audacious steps. The logic of numbers in a democratic system cannot be defeated by treachery, betrayal and perfidy.