PAWAR PLAY… Sharad Pawar as villain of the piece, mooted Sena CM plan for his own benefit

Sharad Pawar and Sanjay Rout …”We hit the jackpot!”

MUMBAI: Is Sharad Pawar the villain of the piece in the break-up of the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance? It would seem so, considering the Machiavellian styles of the Maratha strongman who heads the Nationalist Congress Party. Some Shiv Sena leaders strongly believe this was the case and pity their leader Uddhav Thackeray to have robbed them of a role in governance in both Maharashtra and Delhi — at least for now.

Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Rout, as point man of Uddhav, has been in constant touch with Sharad Pawar. The communication between Rout and Sharad Pawar intensified in the days after the results of the assembly polls came out. BJP hoped for a majority of its own, but did not get it. This opportunity was a godsend for Pawar to exploit to the hilt. Rout is a much-hated and much-loved figure within the Sena rank and file because of his closeness to Uddhav. As principal political adviser to Uddhav, Rout is also the conscience keeper of the Sena chief.

When the results were declared, rumours say it was Pawar who proposed to Rout that the Sena must take the Chief Minister post now. If the BJP refused to give it, Pawar said, he would extend NCP support to form an alternative ministry with the exclusion of the BJP and inclusion of the Congress and NCP, with Sena getting the CM post. Rout carried the hot news to Uddhav Thackeray. Uddhav was more than pleased. This scenario would suit the Sena better, he reckoned. What Uddhav failed to grasp was that the BJP chief Amit Shah was capable of giving him sleepless nights if he took himself to the line of a misadventure of the sort.

The moment the Shiv Sena threw in a tantrum, demanding the CM post, Amit Shah established a direct line with Ajit Pawar, and began exploring several possibilities to retain power in the state. Ajit Pawar waited until he got elected as the legislature party leader of the NCP – something which uncle Pawar regrets now. Then, Ajit ran away with the letter of MLAs’ support to him. The BJP was just waiting for the right moment to strike.

Sharad Pawar was at his wits’ end, faced as he is with serious charges in relation to the Punjab Maharashtra Cooperative Bank scam of epic proportions – a case that the Enforcement Directorate and the CBI are pursuing. Pawar wanted to avert a situation of going to Tihar jail. One way was to “fix” the BJP and then seek his pound of flesh – an extrication from the case. If something more comes his way, well and good; like a minister post for his daughter Supriya Sule in Delhi, going-slow in the CBI-ED probes relating to wrongdoings by party senior Praful Patel in a real estate scam in which the shadow of the deal reached upto underworld don Dawood Ibrahim. However, it seems the BJP chief Amit Shah and PM Modi would not be willing to play ball with Pawar, come what may.

Without word from Sharad Pawar, the Sena chief would not have hardened his stand against the BJP or insisted on a CM post for his party. Pawar knew that this was a lure Uddhav cannot resist; and he knew equally well that the BJP will not grant the CM post to Sena at any cost, given the fact it has the largest share of MLAs in the new assembly — double of what Sena has. Pawar so far succeeded in fishing in troubled waters. 

The BJP might or might not survive the floor test after the swearing in of Devendra Fadnavis as CM and Ajit Pawar as deputy CM, in view of the protective ring that the Sena-NCP-Congress leaderships in Maharashtra have spread around their MLAs till the time of the first voting in the assembly – whenever it happens. But, considering the fact that the morale in the camps of these three parties is low, defection is going to be the name of the game sooner or later. How this can be achieved in view of the anti-defection act is a question, but not a big question.

A similar defection exercise took place in Telangana after KCR became chief minister. He bought TDP MLAs wholesale, though there was enough of support for the ruling TRS after the 2014 assembly polls. Still, KCR wanted to decimate the Chandrababu Naidu enterprise in Telangana, and send Naidu packing from the political stage in Telangana.

The Karnataka experiment too after the 2018 assembly polls showed adventurism of the Congress party – of collusion with the JDS after the results were out – did not help keep up a ministry headed by HD Kumaraswamy. The BJP waited for a while, only to pull down the government in due course and form an alternative one with its warhorse BS Yediyurappa at its head as CM. It took nine months for the BJP to pull down the Congress-JDS ministry and form its own, the BJP being the largest bloc in the state assembly, just as it is now the case in Maharashtra.

The party with the largest chunk of MLAs in the assembly normally gets the first opportunity to form a government – which is what the BJP is trying to explain to the Supreme Court before it announces its verdict on petitions against Governor BS Koshyari’s action of swearing in Devendra Fadnavis as CM and Ajit Pawar as his deputy on Saturday last. What the SC is bound to ask for now is a floor test to prove the majority this new dispensation claims to have in the assembly. –IHN-NN


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