The fact is, since the corona pandemic outbreak in Maharashtra, the BJP has spared no opportunity to try and rock the MVA government.
Who holds the remote control of this government, is the question being asked by the mainstream media to the leaders of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government. As if the citizens are in the wilderness and there is a complete breakdown of law and order. One often wonders how the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister is not asked such questions and is never held accountable for any of the breaches and excesses. That is another story altogether.
Speaking of remote controls, please, the Thackeray family is extremely touchy about it. The founder of the Shiv Sena, Balasaheb Thackeray had made it clear in 1995 that he wielded the remote of the then Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party government. At that time, when Manohar Joshi, was the Chief Minister, the Enron controversy had erupted, as Thackeray had scrapped the power project. The erstwhile CEO of the Enron company, Rebecca Mark, was to meet Joshi, but went to Thackeray’s at residence, Matoshree, the power centre of Maharashtra and kept Joshi waiting at Mantralaya. This made him angry and caused him to erupt, saying he was no ‘remote-controlled CM’. This he told us, journalists, while we too were waiting over an hour for the expected Mark and Joshi meeting.
So you see, we will have to cede the remote control to Uddhav Thackeray, the son of the Sena founder and the present Chief Minister. It is his proprietorial right. Given this backdrop, one cannot blame Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar if he says he is not the remote control of the three-party coalition government. A little link between all these remotes is this: it was at Pawar’s behest that the late Thackeray had named Joshi as the CM, close to midnight. It is no hidden secret that there always have been warm relations between the Thackerays, the Sena and Pawar. Also, between Joshi and Pawar. Most Maharashtrians in the state and many outside for some reason believe Pawar should have been made the Prime Minister and he was slighted.
But apparently, the ‘nation wants to know’ desperately, who is controlling this government. The BJP is most keen on knowing, itching to pull down this government. The fact is, since the corona pandemic outbreak in Maharashtra, the BJP has spared no opportunity to try and rock this government.
‘Me Punha Yein’ (I’ll be back)
The BJP definitely looks like a party unable to face the loss of power and after losing in a few state polls in 2019, we have seen how it refuses to concede its loss. It has been trying to regain lost ground in Maharashtra. The entire nation witnessed the high-voltage drama when former CM Devendra Fadnavis went to the Governor in pre-dawn hours, to be sworn in, having lured away a restless Ajit Pawar into joining him. Fadnavis could not bear being out of the government. Thereafter, the MVA was formed and all he was left with were memes of his last statement before the 80-hour government was ousted: “Me punha yein”, (I’ll be back).
Ever since, Fadnavis has been disgruntled and now, in the corona pandemic, he is desperately trying to topple the Maha Vikas Aghadi government. After repeated, unsuccessful attempts, he dashed off to Delhi to seek a meeting with Amit Shah, the BJP national president and home minister. The BJP has labelled MVA a hodgepodge of three parties and criticised them for sparring with each other. As a face-saver, Fadnavis claims he told his bosses in Delhi that ‘Operation Lotus’ is not possible in Maharashtra. But just as political developments in Rajasthan began to unfold, with the BJP and its supporters falsely believing their government would come back to power, Fadnavis got the impetus to spread rumours that Maharashtra would be next. It is another story that now the Congress has made attempts to retain its government in Rajasthan. However, the numerous futile attempts by Fadnavis to topple this government has prompted Pawar to call him an impatient man.
After nearly a month of reports that the MVA government was on the verge of collapse, Pawar decided to speak to the media about his political game plan which had proved successful. He said he had extended support to the Fadnavis-led BJP government in 2014, to create a wedge between the two saffron parties. Political observers who have known Pawar since he was the Maharashtra CM and tracked his political journey, believe he is a shrewd politician who knows how to play the game well. Pawar is not the sort to get caught in any emotional gambit. His is the cool, considered and unemotional approach to political strategy. Politics is a game of chess, to be played with moves needed to checkmate and win.
Often, his political moves make people feel he is disloyal or cause them to be suspicious of him. A former senior political editor and observer, Pratap Asbe, had written about this smart gameplan of Pawar in a Marathi daily in 2014 when Pawar had decided to support the BJP to create a rift between the saffron alliance parties. The fact is, this move had hurt many of Pawar’s supporters and loyalists who wondered why he allied with Narendra Modi’s party at the state when he opposed it at the Centre. Of course, conspiracy theories were written about, like now. But Pawar strategy was seen yet again when despite being at his wits’ end he managed to convince the reluctant Congress to join this alliance with the Sena, in order to keep the BJP away.
The fact is, in Maharashtra politics, right now, there is nobody to challenge the power game being played by Pawar. Many believe Ajit switching loyalties to become the deputy chief minister with the BJP on November 23, 2019, was known to Pawar. He attributed it to the ‘tussle’ for sharing power since Ajit had become impatient. The ideologies of the three parties were different, but Pawar thought it was the best way to keep the BJP away from power.
Today many have forgotten, the Sena party was always close to the Congress since the seventies, be it during the late Vasantadada Patil’s tenure or that of Pawar. The anti-South Indian, anti-Gujarati and anti-Bhaiyya and anti-Bihari agenda of the Sena for their sons-of-the-soil campaign had received behind-the-curtains support from the Congress.
Meanwhile, as Fadnavis stepped up his attack on the MVA, the BJP central leadership made some significant changes in the state party unit. The most vocal BJP leaders, Kirit Somaiya, Shaina NC and Pankaja Munde, were dropped from the state executive committee of the party. It is also known that Fadnavis has tried to keep his detractors away ever since he was named in the final leg of the 2014 rallies by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the CM face of the BJP. Since then, shockwaves have been felt in the party and there has been a constant tussle for power within the BJP.
Political observers say Fadnavis’s impatience to prove he is still at the helm of party affairs is not surprising, as the leaders who posed a threat to Fadnavis are now forgotten entities. Prakash Mehta, Ashish Shelar and Vinod Tawade have been relegated to the background. They are using this downtime to mend their relationships with their bosses in Delhi. They believe it is best to remain silent while Fadnavis comes across as rather desperate for power.
Statements made by Fadnavis do not reflect well on him, as he went on to say, the three MVA allies were in a live-in relationship, given their constant bickering. It is amusing, considering the tumultuous relationship that the BJP and Sena had for over 35 years. From 1995 to 2009, the Sena was the dominant party and the BJP was at the receiving end of Thackeray’s barbs. From 2012, the death of Thackeray impacted the Sena party, reversing the allies’ roles and leaving it at the receiving end. Thereafter, the BJP took the upper hand, till Uddhav found his footing and in fact, decided to play the game the BJP way. For the longest time in 2019, the BJP believed their alliance partner would eventually come around and Uddhav would not have the courage to form an alliance government, forget becoming the leader and winning the trust vote on the assembly floor to become the Chief Minister.
In fact, a divided party realises if it is out of sight, public memory being short, it will be a forgotten entity. In an amusing development, the former minister and BJP leader Chandrakant Patil spoke to a Marathi newspaper last month, saying they had a formula and were ready to join hands with the Sena. The public, meanwhile, is conveniently distracted by the Sushant Singh Rajput case and other gossips, along with the coronavirus updates. The BJP tries to use its old tricks, with its overactive IT cell which circulates gambling bets that are being placed for the date when the MVA government is likely to fall. But this same itch to return to power has even rubbed off on the missus of Fadnavis. Amruta Fadnavis, who tried to launch her singing career after her husband became the CM, had even made officials like the Commissioner of Police, Chief Secretary and ministers sing and dance in a song to save rivers. This time, she sang a different tune, after Sushant’s suicide. Taking a shot at Mumbai Police, she claimed it was time to leave Mumbai as it had become unsafe to live because of the police. She brought on a lot of criticism for herself.
This desperation has now reached new heights. As soon as the BJP leaders got a whiff that 12 leaders who had switched from the NCP to the BJP prior to the Assembly elections were now sending feelers to the NCP bosses, it proclaimed that some MVA party leaders were desperate to join the BJP. It is as clear as rain that BJP leaders are desperate for power and this is a fight for survival for Fadnavis.