Maharashtra plunged into crisis before polls

  • State set for Maha Yudh

  • President rule likely

  • Prithviraj Chavan resigns

  • NCP withdraws from govt.

  • Four-cornered contest most likely

  • BJP has clear edge over others

 

Mumbai, September 26: Maharashtra politics have taken a sudden and curious turn with the withdrawal of National Congress Party from the coalition government and the consequent resignation of Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan. President’s rule is a likely option. Governor Vidyasagar Rao, who took over the charge only recently, was catapulted into a tricky political situation due to unexpected developments. It is to be seen whether the governor would go for his own rule or ask Chavan to head the lame duck government.

The stage, however, is set for a fierce four cornered contest in Maharashtra assembly elections with Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) playing a marginal role. With split of BJP-Shiv Sena and Congress-National Congress Party (NCP) alliances, the State is going to witness a keen contest from equally strong and equally weak parties with the BJP having an edge over the three other parties. The Shiv Sena’s chief Uddhav Thackeray’s overtures to his estranged cousin Raj Thackeray is interesting as well as intriguing. Even they join hands, it may not make much difference in the context of assembly elections. After the demise of Balasaheb, the Sena has got weakened gradually. MNS which won 13 seats in 2009 has fielded more than 150 candidates by Thursday. It will be difficult for MNS to retain the number since the Congress and the NCP would not support the party anymore. In the last elections both the parties encouraged the MNS with a view to weakening the BJP-SS alliance. The MNS also helped the Congress and NCP to win about 50 seats among themselves.

After a masterful show of strength in the general elections four months ago, the BJP is brimming with confidence and raring to go it alone. It’s marriage of 25 years with the Shiv Sena has ended on a sour note with the junior partner flexing its muscle. Sharad Pawar’s NCP has waited for the BJP-SS relationship to break to announce his own breakup with the Congress. The 25 long standing marriage between the BJP and the Shiv Sena on one hand and the 15 years of mutually beneficial relationship between the Congress and the NCP have been running into difficulties due to sheer fatigue and lack of trust. The Congress and NCP have been in power for 15 long years and the triple incumbency factor has been staring at them. The corruption charges and bad governance on the part of the ruling alliance has resulted in public anger mounting by the day. Both the parties have stabbed each other in the back, sparred time and again and violated basic norms of friendship. Now both the Congress and the NCP are happy to be able to go their own separate ways and try their luck by going it alone.

The Congress leaders have questioned the timing of Sharad Pawar to announce his decision to snap relations with their party. The predict a new alliance in the offing. But as the time for filing of nominations comes to a close by Saturday evening, the possibility of NCP having a covert or overt tie-up with the saffron party is most unlikely. It is a different matter once the elections are over. The NCP can always join BJP-led government and continue in office for the consecutive fourth term. It depends on how many seats would NCP and SS garner. After all that had happened the Shiv Sena could join hands with the BJP after the polls to form coalition government. That was the reason why the BJP leaders were polite enough while announcing their divorce with the Shiv Sena. “Reluctantly we had to part ways since there was constraint of time, as all nominations for 288 seats have to be completed by September 29”, the BJP announcement said.

Chief Minister Chavan said, “Since the BJP formed its government at the Centre, our only aim is to prevent communal forces from coming to power. We did not want to divide the vote”, the Congress party explained.

In 2009 assembly elections, the Congress contested in 174 constituencies and won 84 of them while the Shiv Sena fought for 114 seats and bagged 62. But in the last general elections the Congress party could retain only two of its 17 seats in Maharashtra while the BJP-Shiv Sena combine almost swept the polls. Senior BJP leader Kedar Eknath Khadse was instrumental in rejecting the Shiv Sena’s friendship, according to reliable sources. He wanted Sanjay Savkare to contest from Bhusaval assembly constituency which falls under his Ravel Lok Sabha constituency in Jalgaon district. Savkare was a minister before he defected from NCP to the BJP. He won the seat on NCP ticket and the BJP was keen on making his contest from the same constituency. But as Savkare defeated his Shiv Sena rival in 2009, SS claims that it is its seat and would not concede to the BJP. The rigid stand on the part of the SS had forced the BJP to snap the ties.

Praful Patel, former Union Minister and second most important leader in the NCP, said his party had supported the Congress through thick and thin and wanted to grow on its own. Sharad Pawar, a senior and capable politician, is known for his knowledge of popular mood and he is supposed to be an excellent tactician. The four-corned contest might benefit the BJP to a large extent. The second position may go to Shiv Sena or the NCP. The last place seems to be reserved for the Congress as it cannot escape the triple incumbency effect.

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