Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Deja vu in Maharashtra

  • Developments in Maharashtra appear familiar
  • What happened to NTR is happening to Uddhav today

It appears to be déjà vu experience in Maharashtra. The rebellion, camp at a five star hotel, the number of rebels rising and ultimate unseating of a powerful chief minister are happenings that appear familiar. Is history repeating itself? One is reminded of the developments in undivided Andhra Pradesh some 27 years ago when Viceroy Hotel (now Hotel Marriot) was the centre of activity and the then Chief Minister NT Rama Rao ultimately lost power. It was Chandrababu Naidu, the beloved son-in-law of NTR, who engineered the rebellion while it is Eknath Shinde, a staunch Shiv Sena leader who swears by Balasaheb Thackeray, the founder of Shiv Sena, became the centre of rebellion in the name of  Hindutva.

As Naidu started his camp at Viceroy hotel the number of MLAs who rebelled against NTR rose by the hour. Same thing is happening at Hotel Radisson Blu in Guwahati where Shinde is camping with the rebels. The number of rebels has been rising steadily. From a mere 22, the number has gone up to 40. Naidu after managing to attract a majority of MLAs got himself elected as TDP President replacing NTR. Same thing was done by Shinde who declared that he has the support of 40 Shiv Sena MLAs and ten independent. He needs only 37 Shiv Sena MLAs to split the SS legislature party of 55 members. He has more than the required numbers. He was elected leader of Shiv Sena. Governor Krishna Kant, who later became Vice President of India, got Naidu sworn in as chief minister in place of NTR on 01 September 1995. Maharashtra Chief Minister and Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray is reduced to the leader of a minority group as was NTR at the end of Agust 1995 drama. The then union government led by PV Narasimha Rao did not cooperate with the then chief minister who, most foolishly, wanted the Assembly to be dissolved but gave implicit support to Naidu, the rebel and a potential reformer, though for public consumption the prime minister told the Congress party leaders to keep off the crisis in the TDP. The BJP which is in power at the Centre, on the other hand, has openly supported the rebellion against Thackeray although for the record it has been saying that it has nothing to do with Maharashtra crisis and it is entirely an internal problem of Shiv Sena. Like NTR then, Uddhav now is inaccessible to ministers and MLAs. Uddhav lacks NTR’s charisma and he is most likely to suffer NTR’s fate. The similarities between 1995 and 2022 dramas end here. There was high octane drama in 1995 because there was a controversial and character like Lakshmi Parvati in the dramatis personae. In fact, the same NTR had to take his MLAs to Nandi Hills in Karnataka to protect them from Nadendla Bhaskara Rao who was made CM at the behest of Indira Gandhi. The camp politics to overthrow elected government was started by the Congress and perfected by the BJP. Even in that episode the major role was played by Naidu to help his father-in-law to ultimately triumph by humbling a mighty Indira Gandhi within a month of unprecedented show of strength. Coming back to Maharashtra, it will not he the rebel leader Shinde who will be sworn in as chief minister by Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari but it will be Devendra Fadnavis, the former chief minister who has been looking for vengeance for dismissing him with in a short time after taking over after October 2019 elections to Maharashtra Assembly.

Shinde sitting pretty

Eknath Shinde, the Shiv Sena rebel is sitting pretty in a five star hotel in Assam capital Guwahati with more than 37 MLAs saying that a national party has assured him of all the help. That is the number of MLAs Shinde requires to split the party without attracting the anti-defection law. His total strength now is 50 including independent MLAs. The total number of Shiv Sena MLAs is 55. Shinde has been demanding that Shiv Sena should break free from the MVA (Maha Vikas Agadhi) and align with its natural ally, the BJP. He said the unnatural alliance has been diluting the Hindutva ideology and the Shiv Sena suffered the most in the last two and half years of MVA rule.

Uddhav isolated

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray is isolated with only 13 MLAs supporting him. He said on Wednesday before leaving his official residence Varsha for Matoshri, the  family home, that if any Shiv Sainik is made chief minister he is prepared to step down. On Thursday, his chief spokesperson Sanjay Raut said the party is prepared to exit the coalition with NCP and the Congress if all the rebels reach Mumbai within 24 hours. On the other hand, the party is preparing to submit a plea to the deputy Speaker to disqualify 12 rebel MLAs including Eknath Shinde.

Alliance partners together

The BJP which has been denying its hand in the crisis is understood to have offered important ministerial berths for the rebels in the ministry to be formed with Devendra Fadnavis as chief minister. Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswas Sharma was also seen at the hotel Radisson Blu where the rebels are staying. Alliance partners the NCP and the Congress held internal meetings and declared their solidarity with Uddhav Thackeray. “We will fight together. The MVA will stay together,” said Mallikarjun Kharge. “A floor test will decide who has the majority,” commented the creator of the alliance and former chief minister Sharad Pawar.  One has to wait with bated breath for the next course of developments.  

Also read: Uddhav Thackeray on way out

K. Ramachandra Murthy
Founder & Editor

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