The state of Maharashtra is still without an elected government despite the results having been declared on 24 October 19. The reason being the inability of BJP and Shiv Sena (SS) to come to an understanding on how to share power. Immediately after the results were announced, even before the two parties could hold a meeting to discuss the formation of the government, SS went ahead and held a press conference where in it announced that the Chief Minister (CM) would be on a rotational basis with each party holding the post for two and half years. This, they claimed, was based on an understanding arrived with BJP before the national polls for sharing power on 50-50 basis. SS further demanded that they would seek a written understanding from BJP, duly signed by senior party functionaries, in this regard before any government could be formed.
It was obvious that SS was posturing and trying to push BJP into agreeing to its unreasonable demands that defied all democratic norms. BJP on its part responded by stating that there was no such agreement. Mr Fadnavis even stated categorically that he would be the Chief Minister for full term of five years. That obviously heckled Sena’s feathers and their rhetoric became more belligerent. With shrewd leaders like Mr Narendra Modi and Mr Amit Shah at the helm, it is unthinkable that BJP could have given any such assurance for a 50:50 power sharing irrespective of seats won by each partner. The fact that BJP has been the big brother in last five years too precludes any such undertaking on part of BJP. So it does appear that SS is roaring without any credible evidence to back their claims.
It may be prudent to discuss some numbers here. The total seats in the state assembly are 288 and in a pre-poll agreement both agreed that BJP and SS would contest 164 and 124 seats respectively. It is safe to assume that SS would have pushed for more seats if it had the confidence to win them. The important deduction that one can make here is that SS knew its limitations and the fact that it does not have an all Maharashtra mandate. The final results corroborate this deduction as SS could win only 56 seats with a strike rate of only 45% as against 64% of BJP. Most of SS wins have come from coastal areas and Jalgaon/ Malegaon belt. Therefore it is clear that SS writ does not run in most of Maharashtra despite their claims of being first choice of the people of Maharashtra.
SS seems to be banking on the fact that since BJP’s tally fell by 17 seats from the last elections in 2014, it could bargain harder. But given the overall standing of BJP in the country today this is certainly a wrong assumption. Some of the statements coming from senior SS leaders and party spokespersons are hilarious bordering on ridiculous. When asked on national TV on what basis is SS demanding the post of CM, the spokesperson said because Uday Ji has said so. The same person went on to say that it was easy to control a normal tiger but controlling a wounded tiger would be very difficult. He was obviously implying that if BJP does not give in then SS could create so much trouble for BJP that it may not be able to handle it. Another leader claimed that BJP should give the CM post to SS since the people of Maharashtra want it. Perhaps he forgot that his party had only 56 seats in a house of 288. Then came the clincher from their spokesperson who said that the state needs an elected government at the earliest in view of the agrarian crisis and PMC Bank scam and therefore BJP should give in to SS demands. If the need is so urgent and welfare of the state and its people paramount in Sena’s book, then why is it stalling government formation? In light of their less than 20% seats in the assembly, their undemocratic claims are really absurd.
Then of course SS has been harping on the fact that it has other options like forming a non-BJP government with support of Congress and Nationalistic Congress Party (NCP). It could certainly do that as both Congress and NCP would welcome an opportunity to keep BJP away. Frankly BJP would do well to call this bluff. It is highly unlikely that such a coalition would last and finally President’s rule may have to be imposed. If that happens then BJP would be the net gainer as any fresh elections will possibly see BJP romp home by itself. It would also expose Sena’s thirst for power at any cost. Despite its tall claims, SS is actually on the wane in the state. In addition, BJP can also pull the rug from under SS in the BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) by withdrawing support. That will jolt SS to no end as it will lose its cash cow and that should hurt it where it pains the most.
It is time Mumbai and Maharashtra take a call on whether they want to continue to support hooliganism and disruptive politics as practiced by SS cadres. The sole aim being to instil fear in masses to toe the Sena line. Surely the state voter can see that all the current noise being made by SS is because of one selfish reason – to get the first time elected Aaditya Thackeray elevated to the post of Chief Minister. The fact that he is rather young, untested and inexperienced to handle one of India’s most vibrant states is of no consequence. In view of the declining popularity and hold of SS, this is perhaps a ploy to gain supremacy in the state – albeit at the cost of democracy and the state itself. Time for voters to decide what is good for them and their state.