Rajat Sharma

How Uddhav Thackeray was responsible for his own downfall

rajat-sirThe curtain has, at last, fallen on the nine-day-long suspense in Maharashtra politics, with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray handing over his resignation to the Governor late on Wednesday night. A new coalition government will be sworn in on Thursday evening with rebel Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde as chief minister. The swearing-in of other ministers of the new government will take place later.

On Wednesday night, Uddhav Thackeray announced his resignation through social media, minutes after the Supreme Court vacation bench, after a marathon four-hour-long hearing, refused to stay the assembly floor test ordered by the Governor. The bench said, “we are not inclined to stay the floor test ordered by the governor for tomorrow at 11 am…However the outcome of the floor test will be subject to the final decision in the petition (by SS chief whip Sunil Prabhu)”.

Minutes later, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray appeared on Facebook Live and in a 15-minute address announced his resignation, before saying, “I don’t want to play games. If those people who were brought by Sena chief want to rejoice in the fact that they pulled down his son, it is my mistake that I put my faith in them. I don’t want the blood of my Shiv Sainiks to be spilled on the streets. I am therefore stepping down from the chief minister’s post, as well as from the membership of Legislative Council”.

Uddhav Thackeray appealed to his party workers not to heckle the rebel MLAs when they return to Maharashtra. He said, “All those who were my own backstabbed me and those who were thought to betray me stayed with me. I thank the Congress and NCP leaders for their cooperation and support….A new chapter to the history of democracy will be written tomorrow. Let them dance their way to form the government and take oath. I appeal to my Shiv Sainiks not to come in their way.”

Uddhav Thackeray knew that his defeat in the floor test was a foregone conclusion as he lacked the numbers required to prove his majority. At the last cabinet meeting on Wednesday, he was given two options by his confidantes. One, he could follow the footsteps of former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, go to the assembly, take part in the debate and then announce his resignation before voting.

Two, he was told to resign before going to face the floor test, because rebel Shiv Sena MLAs could make caustic remarks during the debate against him and his son, Aditya Thackeray, and BJP legislators would thump their desks. He could resign before facing the debate to avoid insults in public. Uddhav chose the second option, waited for the Supreme Court order to come, and then went live on social media to announce his resignation.

Uddhav Thackeray may have resigned as CM, but a bigger challenge awaits him. He has to keep the Shiv Sena party from disintegrating. Most of the party stalwarts from the districts have abandoned his ship, and his party has practically become a Mumbai outfit only.

During the nine-day-long tussle, Uddhav first threatened the rebels, then cajoled them by asking them to return, and, in the end, while announcing his resignation, he said, “my own people have stabbed me in the back”. These are emotional words, but Uddhav cannot deny the fact that hardly 16 out of 56 Shiv Sena MLAs are now left with him. Forty rebel Shiv Sena MLAs and 10 independent legislators are now supporting the BJP, which now commands the support of 166 MLAs in the House, though the magic figure is only 144.

While watching Uddhav announcing his resignation on Facebook Live, I noted that he was looking completely disheartened and sad. On the other hand, soon after the resignation was announced, there was jubilation in the BJP camp and party leaders offered sweets to Devendra Fadnavis. There was elation in the rebel Shiv Sena camp in Goa too, where the MLAs had returned from Guwahati.

Uddhav Thackeray must introspect why this sorry situation came about, and why he lost control of his government. In his resignation speech, Uddhav said, I gave tickets to the rebels, and helped them win election, and yet they betrayed me.

Questions will then be asked, why Uddhav Thackeray who had contested the elections in alliance with BJP, ditched the alliance soon after the elections three years ago? Uddhav had fought the elections in the name of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but after the alliance swept to power, he ditched the alliance. Was it not betrayal? Was it only because of his personal ambition to occupy the post of chief minister? Uddhav Thackeray had no personal friendship with either NCP chief Sharad Pawar or Congress president Sonia Gandhi, then why did he joined hands with their parties? Only to become the chief minister?

In order to become the CM, Uddhav ditched his own trusted colleagues with whom he had relationships spanning several decades. By doing this, he forgot the fact that his Shiv Sena legislators had won the elections by contesting against NCP and Congress candidates. It is really a matter of surprise, why it took two and a half years for the Shiv Sena legislators to rebel against their party chief.

Two weeks ago, Uddhav had the opportunity to persuade and convince his rebel MLAs. He could have told them that now that I have been the CM for two and a half years, we should now form a coalition government with the BJP. The rebels could have agreed to his offer. Uddhav could have saved his prestige and his 56-year-old Shiv Sena. But he lost that golden opportunity. In Hindi, there is a proverb: “Duvidha Mein Dou Gaye, Maya Mili Na Ram” (A bird in hand is worth two in the bush).

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