Mahabharata relevance in Maharashtra…

The age old saying in Mahabharata states that there are no permanent friends or permanent enemies in politics. From Mahabharata to Maharashtra, it continues to remain contemporary as the state assembly elections and the prior and subsequent events since then have become a case study on the same. The battleground saw the breakdown of the 25 year old relationship between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Shiv Sena while the ties between Indian National Congress and Nationalist Congress Party snapped almost around the same day. The split ensued a four way vote distribution as the state went to elections with BJP securing the maximum number of seats of 122 eventually out of the total 288.

Shiv Sena went on to finish second with 63 seats and with the anti-incumbency trend continuing Congress and NCP finished at third and fourth largest positions with 42 and 41 seats respectively. The results saw yet another round of coalition and berth sharing talks but failed to yield any significant outcomes. Additionally, the elections were fraught with regional divisiveness including the demand for a separate state of Vidarbha.

It is also interesting to note that while BJP’s ally for years, Shiv Sena is trying to play hard on alliance with BJP, the NCP has gone on to give outside support to BJP. Consequently, Shiv Sena, has occupied the opposition benches with BJP resolutely refusing to cave in to the Sena’s demands. During the swearing-in ceremony of Devendra Fadnavis, which was held at Wankhede Stadium with PM Narendra Modi also being present, Uddhav Thackeray of Shiv Sena made a last minute appearance though on a personal invitation from BJP chief Amit Shah, while the other Sena leaders chose to boycott the same owing to the talks failing. However, that was seen by many as possibility of the coalition being restored as well. The other Thackeray scion, Raj Thackeray and his party, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) also failed to make a mark in the just concluded elections by winning just one seat.

The very choice of Devendra Fadnavis is seen as an indicator of the possibility of the creation of the state of Vidarbha. Vidarbha continues to be a major political and emotional touchpoint as the western Maharashtra region continues to be a region of low economic growth, high farmer suicides and extreme poverty. Many in the political fraternity believe that creating a separate state comprising that region with Nagpur as its capital could possibly develop the region. Devendra Fadnavis himself hails from the Nagpur South West constituency and is the second youngest person to have ever occupied the office of Chief Minister of Maharashtra and is the first BJP CM from the state. Due to the absence of clear majority in the assembly, the BJP government was put through a vote of confidence which it went on to win narrowly on 12th November thereby making it eligible to govern the state. Initially, the BJP had the support of 135 MLAs including other allies such the MNS and independents with NCP choosing to abstain from the vote of confidence. Eventually, the speaker Haribhau Bagde chose to obtain a voice vote of confidence rather than the traditional voting and soon the BJP was declared the winner by the speaker with the NCP choosing to vote for the government while Shiv Sena and Congress going against the government. Choice of voice vote as a medium for trust vote was not accepted by the opposition and many in the political class. Post vote, the CM and the other ministers addressed a joint session of both the houses. This led to a series of protests by the Shiv Sena and Congress MLAs who were agitated by the controversial trust vote. The subsequent inappropriate behaviour led to the suspension of 5 MLAs of Congress party.

With no further traction seen in the Sena-BJP talks at this point and Congress looking at the possibility of heading the opposition, the Shiv Sena decided to stake its claim to the position of leader of opposition in the 288 member house nominating the Thane MLA Eknath Shinde for the same. The outside support given to the current government by the NCP in a very shrewd political move as it saw its own poll fortunes dwindle while its old ally, the Congress was decimated due to the anti-incumbency wave. The move itself is seen by many as NCP’s way to stay relevant and afloat with the changing political scene in the state. In the strictest sense, the two largest parties being on opposite sides is common in most political establishments but it is not often that they happened to be allies until 2 months back. Uddhav Thackeray could have been the kingmaker but has considerably lost his advantage with all cards of all parties on the table especially with the NCP giving the outside support to the current government. Any substantial dent may no longer be possible but changes could still happen that might change the current scenario should there be further alliances or U-turns. How the old friend now turned foe by being in the opposition, is going to really turn out, only time will tell.

Maharashtra was often seen as a cut and dry higher ground when it came to its elections and alliances but the just concluded elections showed tectonic shifts in the very nature of its politics. Despite the vote of confidence and a seeming sense of stability, at its very core is a sense of volatility that is neither fully understood or repaired by any of the major political players in the state of Maharashtra and the whole episode is making Veda Vyasa more contemporary than ever before. We would love to hear about your feedback on the blog and Maharashtra Elections of 2014.

Srinidhi Govindarajan
Team Netapedia