It has been more than twenty days since the announcement of assembly election results, the state of Maharashtra is yet to get a popular government. As many as 29 farmers have committed suicide in the last twenty days; but the Maharashtrian political musical chair is far from over.
What seemed to be a clear mandate for the BJP-Shiv Sena combine; has been completely disregarded by Congress, NCP and the Shiv Sena. Shiv Sena began flexing it muscles straightaway after the results were out, indicating it has got the BJP bull by its horns. A quirky cartoon tweeted by Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut; which indicated that now the mighty BJP is at the mercy of the Shiv Sena; predictably set the social media on fire.
Sena then hardened its stand demanding equal split not only in the minister’s portfolio but also in chief minister’s post. BJP refused to yield to the demand of equal sharing of the CM’s post saying such an agreement never took place; annoying a Shiv Sena which was already on the edge. NCP supremo Sharad Pawar smelled an opportunity in the ensuing melee and has now almost managed to do the impossible i.e., to get the wary Congress join the unlikely coalition and form the government.
The current political conundrum suits NCP the most. Its primary vote catchment area of Western Maharashtra is expected to stay loyal to Pawar irrespective of the political decision he takes. NCP being a regional party has nothing to lose but all to gain from here. It is to be noted that the Congress hardly ran a spirited campaign leading up to the election and it was Sharad Pawar’s whirlwind campaign which reaped in votes for the NCP-Congress duo. Whereas the Shiv Sena; whose primary vote-bank is the Marathi middle-class in Mumbai and Konkan areas stand to lose out to the BJP considering the fact that the mandate was clearly in favour of Fadnavis led government of the BJP-SS combine. As per Shiv Sena leader Raut’s own admission, walking away from the natural alliance with BJP and joining hands with it’s once bitter adversary NCP-Congress would be a “sin” which only a couple of weeks back they apparently didn’t wanted to commit.
Congress high command (read Sonia Gandhi) right from the time when Shiv Sena and NCP started courting them; have been on two minds lending support to this. They rightly feel that a tie-up with a party who is ideologically poles-apart from them will wipe them out in rest of the country where they are still highly dependant on “secular” votes.
There is high amount of disenchantment and a deep feeling of betrayal among a large section of the urban middle-class electorate who feel their votes for Shiv Sena; which they had voted for expecting it to go for BJP’s Fadnavis led govt. has now gone waste. There are also a section of voters who feel Sena has done the right thing to show BJP a mirror and bust its sky high arrogance. On the other hand, BJP president Amit Shah seems to have taken a clear political stand to not give in to the Sena “blackmail” whatsoever. Though, it is apparent that the public perception and sympathy are now with the BJP, the elusive sweet nectar of power is bound to create schism among the local state BJP, who perhaps never imagined they would be sitting in the opposition after their decent performance.
Shiv Sena’s meek justification for its apparent subterfuge; claiming BJP also allied with ideologically opposite PDP in the erstwhile state of J&K doesn’t cut ice as there was no pre-poll alliance between BJP and PDP. Also, with BJP dumping the PDP and eventually scrapping Art.370, the argument put forth by Shiv Sena has very few takers. One one hand the hapless farmer is tightening the noose around his neck; the political parties are busy playing the political musical chair.