MAHA MINISTRY …Hit below the belt to Shiv Sena; BJP pays back in the same coin to Sena, forms ministry with NCP

MUMBAI: In a hit-below-the-belt to the Shiv Sena, the BJP formed a new ministry in Maharashtra this morning, with Devendra Fadnavis as chief minister again, and by joining hands with (a faction of ) the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) of Sharad Pawar. Pawar distanced from the move. He said his nephew Ajit Pawar’s decision to side with the BJP was his own, not the NCP’s.

Early in the morning, Governor Koshyari sworn in Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar, at a brief event attended also by the official media. Then, word spread. Fadnavis said Maharashtra required a stable government, not a “kichdi” of warring political groups.

The shrewed political act came from BJP and Ajit Pawar hours after Sharad Pawar spread word that his party and the Congress would join hands with Sena to form a ministry headed by Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray. The reverse happened early this morning, after Governor Koshyari lifted the brief spell of President’s rule on the state.
Ajit Pawar returned as deputy chief minister in the new government. It would look like, he upstaged uncle Pawar after opening a direct line with the BJP central leadership. A section of the Shiv Sena too is likely to side with the new BJP government.

Curiously, the Shiv Sena which went out of its way to demand the chief minister post and a 50-50 share of ministries in a hard bargain with the BJP after the election results were out, has been made to eat a humble pie. What is speculated is that the Sena would split, its rank and file hugely upset over the failure of its leadership to be part of the new government.
The people’s mandate was for the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance to form the government – BJP getting 105 seats and the Shiv Sena 56 seats; against 54 for the NCP and 44 for the Congress.
The BJP leadership and PM Modi played their cards close to their chest, and exposed the Congress party too, by creating a situation in which Sonia Gandhi unwittingly expressed her willingness to back a Shiv Sena government. The Sena is out and out anti-Muslim, and the reports about Congress support to the Sena had angered sections of Congressmen within the state and outside too.
Notably, Sharad Pawar who performed a trapeze act, had been in Delhi in the past few  days. He met Prime Minister Modi a day ago, and spread word that he was with the PM to press for central support to farmers in Maharashtra. What went behind the scene, with Amit Shah also involved from behind, was a closely guarded secret. There yet is no word on what transpired between them. The media got no wind of what was happening behind the curtains on the BJP side.
The present scenario is suicidal for Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray, who got wrong guidance from his advisers and made a fashion out of muscle-flexing and brow-beating with the Sena’s long-time ally, the BJP. The BJP leadership was waiting for the right opportunity to fix the Sena, as Uddhav has been on a tangent against Prime Minister Modi in place and out of place, and sided with the Opposition in teasing him.
What the Shiv Sena also lost was a share in power at the Centre. It pulled out its minister from the central government after Sharad Pawar made it a condition for his support to an alliance with the Shiv Sena to form a ministry. The Shiv Sena, this week, sat on the Opposition benches in Parliament, after it quit the NDA to be part of the Congress-NCP alliance.

The new development put paid to the greed and ambitions of the Shiv Sena leadership, which is known to be hugely corrupt for long years, what with its governance of India’s richest municipal corporation, the BrahinMumbai Municipal Corporation which draws within its fold the distant yet suburban regions too into its fold. 


To everyone’s surprise, the central leadership of the BJP played it cool along through the month-long political impasse in Maharashtra. It did not give any hint as to how it would play its cards. 

As the Shiv Sena, its ally for three decades, threw in a tantrum after the assembly poll results were out on October 24, demanding the CM post and a 50-50 sharing of ministries, the BJP leadership simply smiled and politely replied that this is not in the scheme of things. The Sena came up with just half the number of MLAs compared to the BJP’s 105 figure, and it wanted to lead from the front. Many thought Uddhav Thackeray was playing big games to usurp the CM gaddi either for himself of his politically half-baked son Aaditya Thackeray. There were also many who thought Thackeray was being crazy. Very few, if any, thought the Sena was set on a disaster course and Uddhav is being “stupid.”

BJP chief and Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s silence was both deafening and — as it now turns out — pregnant with silence. 

Curiously, BJP heavyweight and once the blue-eyed-boy of the RSS in Nagpur, Nitin Gadkari — himself a former president of the BJP — had no inkling what was happening. The whole operation was masterminded from Delhi by Shah in consultation with PM Modi.

Once the results were out and the Sena was quick to throw in a tantrum, the BJP needed time to tackle the situation. It used the governor to engineer things to its advantage. Within a few days after the results were out, the governor quickly called the three contending sides to try and come up with requisite support to form government. The BJP stepped aside, saying it had not enough of numbers, as the Sena had already threatened to ditch the BJP if it did not give the CM post to the Sena. Then, the governor called the Shiv Sena, the second largest party. It was given a day’s time, but the Sena leadership could not get the letter of support from the NCP and the Congress within this stipulated time. Then, the governor checked with the NCP whether it was in a position to form government. It said no, not yet. The result: Governor Koshyari imposed president’s rule for short term for the situation to calm down and a positive situation to evolve. 

The Shiv Sena went on doing confabulations with one and all to help it form a government. Sharad Pawar gave it hope, and in the end smartly ditched it. 


Likely, Sharad Pawar was not able to extract his pound of flesh from PM Modi —  at the meeting he had with the PM a day ago. Pawar is caught in cases relating to huge banking fraud in the cooperative banking sector in Maharashtra and central agencies are inquiring into charges against him. It was speculated that he would soon end up in Tihar Jail alongside P Chidambaram. Pawar is among the politicians of this generation who made a lot of wealth allegedly through corrupt and foul means. 

There also are similar cases being investigated against his nephew and former NCP deputy CM, Ajit Pawar. Ajit Pawar now returns as deputy CM. He will carry with him a major segment of the NCP, and Sharad Pawar and his daughter Supriya Sule might remain isolated. Ajit Pawar is not in good terms with Supriya.

There are equally serious cases against another close confidant of Sharad Pawar, Praful Patel. He is also accused of links with underworld don Dawood Ibrahim’s men, in allegedly fraudulent real estate deals. 

In a way, there is no difference between the NCP and the Shiv Sena when it came to corruption. So, if the BJP could ally with the Sena all along, it is just fine if it allies with the NCP too. The present scenario reinforces the fact, yet again, that neither Sharad Pawar nor his associates like Ajit Pawar have no scruples; they will go any length to get what they wanted. This is time for caution to the BJP too. 

After all, people’s verdict is what matters. The NCP faction of Ajit Pawar stands to gain from the present arrangement with the BJP. It will be a part of power, but the Shiv Sena is faced with a huge embarrassment, loss of face, and possible disaster in the form of a split in the party. If a split happens, a section of the MLAs could come to the BJP side. They would be given membership in the BJP, rather than allowing themselves to remain as a Sena faction; this, if there are sufficient number of MLAs doing this, so as not to invite provisions of the anti-defection act.

For Uddhav and the Thackeray clan, this here is mourning time. Their dream to grab the CM post has been given a decent burial. 

For Devendra Fadnavis, luck is in his favour — for the moment. But he is under close watch of the central leadership. He could not get the numbers for the BJP in the assembly polls after he ruled the state for five years. It meant, he is not the best bet for BJP’s future electoral success. It cannot afford to go the next assembly polls with him being in the forefront. BJP in Maharashtra requires a stronger leader to lead its government in the long run. IHN-NN


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