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THE MADNESS IN MAHARASHTRA

THE MADNESS IN MAHARASHTRA
15 Nov 2019

With elections long over, followed by President’s rule, the state remains in suspended animation

Politics is a dirty game. When the results of the assembly elections in Maharashtra came out last month, supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party hailed the outcome as yet another thumping and reassuring victory. They celebrated a little too early. Had they not temporarily forgotten that the 161 seats flashing in favour of the saffron party on TV channels across the country were actually for “BJP+”, very much including the significant 56 seats won by pre-poll alliance partner Shiv Sena, they may not have been in for the big shock they got soon after.

The drama of power tussle that played out in subsequent days saw the alliance partners spectacularly fall out over the Shiv Sena’s demand for rotational chief ministership and the BJP’s refusal to allow anyone other than Devendra Fadnavis to hold the post.

The Shiv Sena’s withdrawal from the alliance left the BJP with little chance to form a government in Maharashtra despite having emerged as the single largest party, with 105 seats. When Maharashtra Governor B.S. Koshyari called upon the Shiv Sena next, it failed to show the numbers as well, being predictably unable to cobble up a last-minute coalition with traditional bitter foes such as Congress (which won 44 seats) and the Nationalist Congress Party (54 seats).

With the unfortunate impasse showing no encouraging signs of getting resolved, Koshyari finally sent his recommendation early in the day of November 12 to the Union Home Ministry calling for imposing President's rule. Soon after, Prime Minister Narendra Modi convened a meeting of the Cabinet which conveyed to President Ram Nath Kovind its recommendation for imposition of central rule in the state. With Kovind accepting the recommendation and signing the concerned notification immediately, the President's rule was imposed in Maharashtra by the night of the same day, with the state assembly in suspended animation.

This move was decried by many political parties within the state, who said the Governor’s decision was politically motivated. The Shiv Sena even moved the Supreme Court challenging why it was not granted an extension of time to prove its majority. After all, Governor Koshyari had indeed rejected the party’s request for a two-three days extra time to prove its support.

Despite the ongoing President’s rule in the state, Maharashtra continues to see hectic politicking as the contenders still seek to join hands and form a viable government to the satisfaction of the state's Governor.

Many political analysts are of the view that the NCP, Congress and Shiv Sena will eventually be able to pull off a "MahaShivAghadi" alliance, what with the three parties fervently engaged in formal and informal talks at all levels to reach a common agreement on their respective demands.

After speaking with Congress interim President Sonia Gandhi on phone (to solicit support for government formation) and meeting with senior leader Ahmed Patel on the same day that President’s rule was imposed on Maharashtra, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray met state Congress leaders in the city to discuss the finer aspects of government formation in Maharashtra.

Following another round of talks on November 13, Thackeray said: "The discussions with the Congress are proceeding in the right directions. You will be informed of everything at the right time."

State Congress chief Balasaheb Thorat also said that the meeting was a preliminary one and more would be discussed after the Congress and NCP talk among themselves.

The Congress-NCP have also made five-member committees on each side to chalk out the power-sharing formula and a Common Minimum Programme on the basis of which they plan to join hands with the Sena.

NCP supremo Sharad Pawar is scheduled to meet the Congress interim President to firm up alliance talks with the Shiv Sena to form a government in Maharashtra, according to sources.

The CMP will be finalised first between NCP and Congress, and then taken to Shiv Sena for final talks. The Congress wants Shiv Sena to agree on the CMP and then further negotiation will take place on the contours of the government.

The state Congress leadership of Maharashtra is keen to join the coalition. Meanwhile, Congress MLAs are lodged in a Jaipur resort to prevent poaching.

With every passing day, the three parties seem to be getting closer to forming a coalition government in Maharashtra. But nobody should be surprised if more surprises spring up in the coming days. For politics is a dirty game.

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