- BJP gives a last minute twist to its strategy
- Finishing Uddhav and his Sena is the new target
- Uddhav in catch 22 situation
If Shiv Sena rebel Eknath Shinde becoming chief minister of Maharashtra was a surprise, former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis joining the government as his deputy is a double dhamaka. The BJP has once again proved that it can take unique decisions and make the party leaders do its bidding. A phone call from party president JP Nadda (not even Modi or Shah) was all that was required to force a reluctant Fadnavis to fall in line and join the cabinet as an assistant to a rebel leader.
Sharad Pawar, the creator of Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) and its main sponsor, was surprised at Shiv Sena’s chief rebel being offered the CM’s chair by bigger partner BJP. It was meant to convince the political class that the BJP was not in the toppling game to unseat MVA government and it only supported the rebels after the chief minister Uddhav Thackeray resigned. Till then the BJP leadership maintained that it was an internal affair of Shiv Sena. It can play innocent but political observers are no novices and the BJP game has been apparent right from the moment the bus left Mumbai with 22 Shiv Sena rebels led by Shinde for Surat. The rebels’ journey from Surat to Guwahati made the BJP hand perfectly visible.
If any proof of BJP connivance was needed, the good old Governor Bhahat Singh Koshyari is there to offer. The alacrity with which Koshyari accepted the request of Fadnavis to order floor test by the next day (Thursday) without bothering about the case of disqualification filed by Shiv Sena in Supreme Court. It was as dramatic as the pliant Governor gave oath of office to Fadnavis in early morning coup two and half years ago to hoodwink Sharad Pawar who was making the extraordinary coalition possible. Fadnavis did not survive. Since then, he has been consumed by vengeance. The scene depicting a happy Governor offering sweet to the new chief minister and deputy chief minister gives away everything. There has been no attempt to hide the glee.
It was a failure of Shiv Sena leadership in general and Uddhav Thackeray in particular. Sharad’s man who was handling the home portfolio also failed to know the developments when 22 legislators were leaving the shore. But the MVA coalition has been intact till the last minute. And it did well during its tenure. Uddhav in particular was very good in administration during the Covid menace in protecting Mumbai city from the virus by going all out to support the medical establishement. Considering that he was new to administration, Uddhav had put up a very good show. NCP and Congress leaders stood by Uddhav like a rock. The fact that only 15 out of 55 Shiv Sena MLAs that were elected in 2019 were with its supreme leader Uddhav is a sad commentary on the state of affairs in the party. What the loud mouths such as Sanjay Raut were doing when so much of rebellion was brewing is something inexplicable.
The idea of making the rebel leader Shinde the chief minister instead of Fadnavis is a clever move by the BJP. The purpose is to highlight the theme of the rebellion, that is Shiv Sena and BJP are natural partners and the real Shiv Sena is with Shinde and not Uddhav Thackeray. The BJP will be running the government with Fadnavis at the head for all practical purposed. The ruling party at the centre has got Mumbai into its hands. It was craving for that. Attempts would be made by BJP leadership to decimate Shiv Sena by further weakening Uddhav’s hold on the party. Uddhav is popular among the Sainiks in Mumbai city for which elections are due now. Besides winning the Brihad Mumbai Municipal Corporation elections decisively, Uddhav has also to build his party in rural areas, particularly Western Maharashtra from where the present chief minister comes. It is a test by fire for Thackeray since he would be fighting for the Hindutva space with friends who are opposed to the rightist philosophy. Uddhav has to move completely to right in order to claim the mantle of Balasaheb Thackeray who openly expressed happiness at the felling of Babri Masjid on 6 December 1992 when BJP leaders were mumbling excuses. If he moves far right, more of Hindutva than what the rebels and the BJP can dish out, he would be alienating Shara Pawar and the Congress. In which case, he will be fighting a lonely battle in 2024 assembly elections with BJP and Shiv Sena rebels on one side and the NCP and the Congress on the other. If Uddhav chooses to keep the new found friendship with Sharad Pawar and others, he has to dilute his Hindutva ideology which would be suicidal for his faction. It will prove Shinde right. It is like devil and deep see. It is an uphill task for Uddhav either way. It is called Catch-22 situation.