Rajat Sharma

How Uddhav Thackeray overplayed his cards

akb1709With President’s rule in force in Maharashtra, all hectic efforts by Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP in the last one week to form a coalition government have now somewhat abated.

Both the NCP and the Congress have now formed committees to prepare a common minimum programme after talks with the Shiv Sena. As of now, nothing is clear as to whether there will be a rotational chief minister or not, and whether there would be a deputy chief minister. Shiv Sena leaders like Arvind Sawant and Sanjay Raut said on Wednesday that their party would insist on getting the chief minister’s post.

The single largest party, BJP, withdrew from the race on November 9. After a long wait, the Governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari then invited the second largest party, Shiv Sena to explore ways for government formation. The Shiv Sena wanted more time, but the Governor declined to give extension. The third largest party, NCP also wanted three days’ time to form a government, but since there was no clear picture emerging, the Governor recommended President’s rule, which was promulgated on November 12.

All the Congress MLAs, who were herded by the party high command to prevent poaching, have now returned to Maharashtra from Jaipur. On Wednesday, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, after meeting Congress leaders in a hotel, claimed that the talks were progressing “in the right direction, and everything is going fine”.

Clearly, this was an attempt by Uddhav Thackeray to shore up the morale of his MLAs, who have been kept at a resort on Madh island. Neither the NCP nor the Congress have yet been committal on the issue of power sharing with the Shiv Sena. NCP supremo Sharad Pawar’s nephew Ajit Pawar said on Tuesday that “before the New Year begins, I think Maharashtra should get a new government”.

Former CM Narayan Rane, who had left Shiv Sena several years ago to join the Congress, and later left that party to join the BJP, on Tuesday night claimed that the BJP alone form a government. Rane promised to use “sama, dama, danda, bheda” to form a BJP-led government. He should know better, because he had spent most of his political life in the Shiv Sena and the Congress, and knows both the parties inside out.

The Congress, which had sent its panel of senior leaders like Ahmed Patel and Mallikarjun Kharge, to Mumbai to meet Sharad Pawar and other NCP leaders, is still non-committal. Patel and Pawar made it clear on Tuesday that both the parties are yet to decide on forging an alliance with the Shiv Sena. Both the leaders said that the two parties would first decide among themselves and then talks would begin with the Shiv Sena.

Sharad Pawar was emphatic. He said, the ideologies of the Congress are different from those of the Shiv Sena. “If the Shiv Sena needs Congress’ support, then there should be clarity on several issues, a common minimum programme has to be prepared, and this process would take time”.

After the joint press conference by Sharad Pawar and Ahmed Patel, several things are now crystal clear. However, fresh questions arise about Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray. He had sought the support of the NCP and the Congress only on Monday, and yet his party had not received any firm assurance from these parties till then.

The first question arises as to on what basis the Shiv Sena had staked its claim before the Governor, in the absence of firm assurances of support? The second question that arises is: why Uddhav Thackeray was in a hurry? Why did he direct his party minister to quit the NDA government at the Centre, even before he had not received support from NCP and Congress?

With the political situation still fluid, all that can be said now is, to quote Shakespeare: “Much ado about nothing.”

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