Machiavellian in Maharashtra
After month-long negotiations, the Shiv Sena under Uddhav Thackeray is all set to rule Maharashtra government with the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) while the Bhartiya Janata Party stands corrected and defeated.
The political drama in Maharashtra, with many twists and turns, a coup and a counter coup, may seem like just another chapter in India’s opportunistic and manipulative political history, but it actually offers many important lessons and take-aways for the winners as well as its biggest loser – BJP.
Firstly, the state assembly elections seem to have halted the BJP juggernaut which seemed invincible only a few months ago. Maharashtra joins Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh in the succession of states the BJP has lost in the last one year.
Ahead of the recent elections, the Devendra Fadnavis-led BJP government was expected to comfortably win a second term and retain power in India’s richest state, but alienating its decades-old and most steadfast ally Shiv Sena after failing to get the majority on its own nixed all such hopes.
Accommodating its allies in the coming elections will be crucial for the BJP as it is getting harder for the party to secure a sweeping win in state elections in the name of Prime Minister Narendra Modi alone.
Despite its shrill rhetoric against corruption, the BJP raised many eyebrows after it began importing a slew of discredited leaders from rival political parties ahead of the polls. Political observers criticised Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis for trying to form government with NCP’s Ajit Pawar after relentlessly calling him corrupt during the poll campaign. This was seen as an act of brazenness and did not go down well with its supporters.
Secondly, opposition parties across the country got a big boost with the Maharashtra political upheaval which eventually led to parties of varying ideologies joining hands to isolate the BJP. If the Shiv Sena can join hands with the Congress and the NCP while dropping its natural ally BJP, alternative poll alliances can become a reality in other states as well.
Thirdly, the Congress party’s entry in the new coalition government can be seen as the beginning of the party’s revival in the state. The Congress was miles behind the BJP in the last parliamentary elections but victories in some states and its presence in the new government mean the BJP’s dream of a “Congress-mukt Bharat” is not going to be a reality.
However, the Congress will do well to realise that it will have to play second fiddle to stronger regional parties that are rooted in regional aspirations in various states. These elections also marked the re-emergence of NCP supremo Sharad Pawar who single-handedly turned around the fortunes of his party and rose to be the kingmaker in Maharashtra. Pawar could now play a central role in uniting anti-BJP forces and transforming national politics in the future.