It was a man who had reconciled to his fate – dejected and disappointed. Nothing seemed to symbolise the abject surrender more than caretaker Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’ statement that the door had been left ajar for the Shiv Sena, in case they still wished to retreat from a point of no return. But by blaming the alliance partner for the game of brinkmanship, Fadnavis gave away his sense of despondency.
The chief minister needs to look back at his own conduct. In the run-up to the 2014 Assembly poll, it was he who undermined the Hindutva alliance and became the chief minister with NCP crutches. Having behaved thus, he has little moral authority today, to point a finger at the Sena for not living up to the alliance dharma.
The body language, as he read out his funeral dirge, was that of a vanquished leader, who realises that much of the mess was of his own making. Instead of staking claim like a confident leader, even if it were to be construed as bravado, Fadnavis claimed that he was still waiting for the invitation from the alliance partner.
But the leader of the single largest party – who has behind him the weight of the Modi-Shah dispensation – need not have waited on the political margins like a spurned suitor.
Now that the deed is done, one realises the absurdity of the claim that they will cross 220 seats and form the government with him yet again as the Chief Minister. None of that happened. Today, he was a forlorn figure, undone by his exaggerated sense of self-importance.
Just as the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah dispensation destroyed their detractors within the party, Fadnavis tried to replicate the formula by destroying the families of the late Gopinath Munde and Eknath Khadse.
Pankaja Munde and Rohini Khadse were his trophies as much as the discarded Vinod Tawde and Prakash Mehta, all of who have considerable hold within the party.
With adversaries ousted, Fadnavis thought he would be the overwhelming factor in the State’s politics, but there was none to support him when the going became tough. Today, as he stepped out of the Governor’s chamber, the isolation was complete, which a flicker of occasional smile failed to redeem.
By his own admission, Fadnavis said the 50:50 formula and the proposal for a CM by rotation was not discussed with him; if the discussion took place with Shah, then he had no clue.
This statement gave it all away. Literally, the battle lines have been drawn, as Fadnavis realises he is politically dispensable. Even more important, his bosses find it expedient to get rid of him.
The thrust of the Sena insistence since October 24, the day of the results, has been, implement the 50:50 power sharing formula and a firm ‘no’ to Fadnavis as the next chief minister. Fadnavis has bitten more than he can chew, which was borne out by the video that went viral.
In it, he is seen speaking to journalists on the microphone and saying that if his government is re-elected, then the BJP and the Sena will equitably share responsibilities and posts.
After his public slamming of the Sena, Fadnavis was dubbed a liar by Uddhav; what a climb down for a man known to be principled.
The fact is Fadnavis made far too many claims prior to the Assembly election. He claimed BJP will cross the 220 milestone. But Sena has exposed how the BJP fooled them into accepting 124 seats.
Fadnavis also forced the smaller regional parties to contest on the Lotus symbol, thereby contesting on all the 228 seats, which again was a betrayal of the coalition dharma.
This is not the first time the BJP rode roughshod over the Sena. In 2014, the party gave only the heavy industries ministry to the Sena at the Centre which they repeated this time too. Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray watched the moves, waiting for the right time to strike back.
It is not as if the Sena was charitable towards the BJP; the party was attacked on issues but Sena leaders desisted from personally attacking any of their leaders.
The final nail in the coffin was the recourse to vindictive politics by appointing only BJP cronies to all political institutions. The BJP also began hounding its rivals.
In one such flourish, the Enforcement Directorate on September 24, said, they will send a notice to NCP chief Sharad Pawar in the Maharashtra Cooperative bank scam. Fadnavis saw this as a fine opportunity to speak against the Maratha leader, whom he has targeted even before and about whom he has made personal remarks.
The sympathy, not just in Maharashtra, but across the country, went in Pawar’s favour. For once, the BJP forgot the word ‘loyalty’, something that Sena did not. Many believe the change of guard will now herald the winds of change in the state.