MahaNext: Governor Down, Pawar Up, Citizens Nowhere


It is a theatre of the absurd in Maharashtra politics with villains on all sides and no heroes. And, to the long list of cunning politicians and their misdeeds, the discretion of the Governor can also now be added. Governor Biased or Under Pressure: The Union Cabinet had recommended President’s rule in Maharashtra and it

It is a theatre of the absurd in Maharashtra politics with villains on all sides and no heroes. And, to the long list of cunning politicians and their misdeeds, the discretion of the Governor can also now be added. 

Governor Biased or Under Pressure:

The Union Cabinet had recommended President’s rule in Maharashtra and it is announced by Prasarbharati even before the announcement came out of Governor suggesting the imposition of Art 356 thereby bringing in President’s rule in Maharashtra, and all these even before the 8pm deadline for NCP to show their majority had elapsed on Tuesday. The President’s stamp of approval was just a formality now. One has a strong suspicion whether the hurry was to put Maharashtra in suspended animation before PM Modi left for BRICS meeting in Brazil on Tuesday! The constitutional caveat that all options need to be exhausted for forming the government before recommending President’s rule was visibly absent here.  

On the other side, Shiv Sena, miffed by the fact that it was given merely 24 hours to prove its majority, has gone to the Supreme Court and NCP might join in with a similar plea and that emergency was recommended before additional time to it too. Interestingly, though NCP-Congress are in a pre-poll alliance, the Governor had invited NCP only to form the government, and did not give any chance to Congress either with NCP or on its own. However,

As the theatre of the absurd is coming to a temporary pause, Sharad Pawar, at 79 years of age, has emerged once again as the strongman of Maharashtra, and may now forge a strong anti BJP alliance to take on BJP in the elections ahead, if there is one provided no alliance evolves to rule. On the other hand, if elections come again next, Shiv Sena may find itself at the receiving end though strong enough to harm BJP when both erstwhile partners slog it out alone mouthing Hindutva slogans. Going with BJP would make it lose its ego and stature, going out into the polls alone will make its vote-bank shrink.

A Crook to Fix Another:

The BJP is with 105 MLAs in the 288-member assembly and Sena, 56. Together they are well past the majority mark of 145 but the Sena wanted equal partnership claiming that this was a pre-poll deal between the two partners. Actually, Shiv Sena has understood that BJP cannot get power without its support so was playing hard ball. Also Sena vote percentage is on the decline over the last few elections.  And BJP addresses the same Hindutva constituency as it does. Shiv Sena desperately needed to come out of the BJP’s shadow. This is understandable as the party has traditionally been the big brother in the alliance, until 2014, when the BJP’s sudden rise under Narendra Modi helped it overtake the Sena. Hence, this was the last time that Sena could take the centre-stage, and more so, with the first time ever electoral battle and victory of a Thackeray scion, Uddhav’s son Aditya Thackeray from Worli. 

Sena’s desperation was also due to the fact that after getting clear majority in the centre, BJP has treated its allies with almost a disdain, allowing just one ministerial berth which pissed off both JDU of Nitish Kumar and Shiv Sena. Both these NDA allies are with MPs more than 16 each, while Akalis with 2 MPs also have the same 1 ministerial berth. Decidedly, the same fate would have befallen Sena if BJP could have managed a majority on its own or with the easily bought-over support of a few independents in the Mahrashtra elections this time around. 

On the other hand, BJP has got the taste of its own medicines it used to snatch power in Goa where it did not have majority and was behind Congress, but tied with anti-BJP party Goa Forward and formed government; or in Manipur or Meghalaya or Nagaland where it tied up-with smaller local parties to deprive the single largest parties to come to power; or in Arunachal & Uttaranchal where it engineered whole-scale defection and used to office of the Governor to assume power; or latest in Karnataka where it first failed to get majority on the floor of the Assembly even after getting power and then engineered rebellion within the ruling JDS-Congress government and forced it to become a minority government. It takes a crook (Sena) to fix a crook (BJP). That’s what is happening in Maharashtra. This time, it was BJP on the back-foot and perhaps for the first time since 2014. 

It must be noted that if the single largest party fails to prove its majority, the Governor is duty bound to call the next party, Sena in this case, or the next party, NCP in this case. He did so (but did not call Congress), and gave none of these two more than a day to prove majority which was well neigh impossible. And this gubernatorial discretion will surely go against the BJP as the current Maharashtra Governor is a former BJP union minister and RSS functionary. Since both the parties failed, it is a breakdown of constitutional machinery leading to the President’s rule as per Article 356 of the Indian constitution which can be continued in normal circumstances for a maximum of six months (extension allowed). 

Power Games Going Ahead:

Going ahead, a common minimum program and the common agenda to come to power may bring Sena, NCP and Congress together in some sort of an understanding. Or, a section of Sena MLAs may rebel being bought over and switch loyalty to BJP giving it a majority. 

Or else, if elections become the fait accompli, Pawar led NCP+Congress may now unite all non Hindutva forces including Vanchit Aghadi (Dalits), the Left, PWP, Samajwadi Party, and may now go for an all-out fight to finish against BJP harping on failure of BJP+Sena to be together and the Governor’s bias. BJP obviously will go alone but will have nothing much to say against the main opposition, as NCP and Congress were ready to sit in the Opposition in any case, while Shiv Sena, the ultimate loser, will bite BJP hard in its strongholds. BJP and Sena separate while opposition united under a Maratha leader is a dream come true for the Opposition in Maharashtra. Post new elections, if the opposition gets the first slot but not a clear majority, Sena may even decide to support a non-BJP government to come to power. 

Uphold People’s Power:

Power politics the Pawar way remaining where they are, it is important for the common man to note and act on a few things. First, India must seriously debate on the efficacy and the need of the position of Governors in the state who are tired and retired or cornered politicians more often than not, living on spoils of power, in huge pieces of real estate a la British colonial times, at the taxpayer’s cost, with no worthwhile contribution to governance and taking highly controversial steps as that of the current Maharashtra Governor. Central governments led by Congress or BJP have both misused the position of the Governors over and over again in the last seven decades. 

Second, no government will provide governance worth any name unless people demand and carry out well planned agitation on ground and in media, social or otherwise. The Kisan Long March, the Aarey forest protection movement and many others are evidences of the same in Maharashtra. It is important that the people should carry forward movements on their rights and legitimate demands. 

Third, stronger the people’s issues on the minds of the electorate, lesser will be the impact of Hindutva or casteist appeals. Caste and majoritarianism have both proved to be divisive forces and elections ahead must be fought on issues of people and not hollow caste and community slogans. 

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