From BJP to Sena, all parties come across poorly, but the biggest casualties were the President and the Governor.
No political party that doesn’t seize every opportunity that comes its way – including the ones that aren’t fully there – can ever hope to do well, so, to that extent, the BJP can’t be faulted for trying to form a government in Maharashtra with the NCP’s help after its pre-poll ally, the Shiv Sena, decided to act up and start making unreasonable demands. Except, the way this was done exposed not just the party’s top brass but also made a mockery of Constitutional offices like that of the state’s Governor BS Koshyari and President Ram Nath Kovind. The BJP discussing power-sharing with the NCP was a real shock given the BJP’s anti-corruption plank. While ex-chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had no qualms about taking oath with the NCP’s Ajit Pawar as his deputy on Saturday, a few years ago he was borrowing from Dharmendra’s famous ‘chakki-peesing’ dialogue from Sholay to describe what he would do to Pawar who was alleged to be involved in the Rs 70,000-crore irrigation scam in the state.
Since NCP chief Sharad Pawar was being investigated in the Maharashtra Cooperative Bank scam and Praful Patel for his role in the Air India aircraft deal, among others, the BJP-Shiv Sena tie-up suggested the investigations would take a back seat; at that time, no one knew Sharad Pawar didn’t approve of what his nephew had done and that the latter was trying to split the party. It didn’t help that, after the swearing-in, the state’s Anti-Corruption Bureau closed some of the cases pertaining to the irrigation scam; for the record, the ACB said none of the 9 cases were linked to Ajit Pawar.
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While the alliance talks between the Shiv Sena and the NCP (with Sharad Pawar at the helm) and Congress ranked equally of opportunism given their pre-poll animus, it is indeed amazing that Governor Koshyari never paused to think of how Ajit Pawar was offering support to the BJP – as legislative party head, he was, technically in a position to do so – when newspaper headlines were all about how the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress were about to approach the Governor to stake claim to the government. President Kovind’s reputation took a beating when he cleared, at 5.47am on Saturday, revocation of President’s rule in the state – since the Cabinet hadn’t cleared the revocation, prime minister Narendra Modi used Rule 12 of the Government of India rules that give him special powers to do so! – and this allowed the Governor to swear in Fadnavis-Ajit Pawar a few hours later.
Given how things unraveled later, it appears clear the operation was conducted in stealth as it wasn’t quite kosher; on Tuesday, just before he resigned, Fadnavis said the BJP didn’t believe in splitting parties, but that’s what the operation with Ajit Pawar was. Even now, after the decks have been cleared for the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress to stake a claim to form the government, it is not clear how long the alliance will last given the fundamental contradictions between the partners; the anti-BJP glue, of course, should help. While the BJP has lost some of its sheen, at least for now, the big loser, of course, is the voter since it is clear that pre-poll alliances mean little to those who are making them; is there a case for amending the Representation of People’s Act to prevent such break-ups? The redeeming feature, though, is that this phase of the farce has come to an end on the 70th anniversary of the day India adopted its Constitution.