What went wrong in Maharashtra?

Millions of Indians kept watching the two-week-long political melodrama of Maharashtra at not one but three places, viz., Mumbai, Surat and Guwahati. Maharashtra is an important state and its capital Mumbai is the financial hub of the country.

The narrative is bizarre as well as educative if one wants to know the nitty-gritty of Indian politics. The foundation of the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (English: Maharashtra Development Front), abbreviated as MVA, was on sand, and its collapse was inevitable. However, what kept the partners together for more than two years was primarily their lust for power and secondarily the general loot of the public money through pseudo-legal corruption.

The one thing that glaringly stuck its head out was non-seriousness on the part of the actors towards the fundamental duty of serving the people. Instead, they thought of serving themselves or their party which catapults politicians to the seat of power.  

We said the foundation stone of the MVA was slippery and unstable. This alliance was forged out of lust for power and not conviction of service to the people. Shiv Sena directly or indirectly accepted the support of the BJP to win 56 seats in the previous election. The history and ideological similarity between the Shiv Sena and BJP demanded that egos and ambitions had to be made subservient to national interests and for the stability of the upcoming political structure. The logjam between the BJP and Shiv Sena was about who would hold the chair of the chief minister of the state. The BJP refused to demonstrate large-heartedness and prudence by giving a local jingoistic political party a chance of leading the government. Did not the BJP succumb in J&K and allowed the PDP to lead the coalition government knowing very well that the PDP was born from the womb of terrorism and fundamentalism?

On the other hand, Shiv Sena’s leadership was intransigent to underestimate the national-level strong party like BJP. Its assertion on the count of influencing the local jingoistic party was ill-founded. Out of lust for power, it refused to play the second fiddle. What is worse, it hobnobbed with two other parties namely Congress and NCP, both of which were ideologically miles apart from it. The Congress, as everybody knew, was the other name of the Indian Muslim League and the NCP was perhaps the most opportunist party always trying to be on the side of the winner with no political ideology or destination. The Mumbaikars knew very well to what extent the NCP leadership had been enjoying bonhomie with the Mumbai underworld. Nobody knew it better than Shiv Sena. Yet it decided to be on the wrong side because Congress and NCP, both knew that by putting the crown on the head of Shiv Sena they were jointly contriving the ultimate destruction of Shiv Sena in Mumbai as it posed the most potent threat to their existence in the financial metropolis of India.

Those fifty-odd Shiv Sena rebels who staged a rebellion against their leader shall have to answer one important question. What they did now is what they ought to have done when their chief was negotiating power-sharing with the other two opposed parties. Why did they seal their lips then and waited for two years and a half to come out in open? They cannot sell the argument that they waited and watched things might turn the right way. This is a spurious argument. A wolf may lose its teeth but not its nature goes the old saying.  They were no less covetous and power-hungry than the rest of them. The real reason why they finally rebelled is not their deepening differences with the Sena supremo but the fact that the two coalition partners had reduced them to almost anything like zero. They saw through the subtle mechanism of the two veteran and experienced parties dominating the political scenario in the State.  It can be presumed that they might have taken up the matter of their degraded status in the administrative and juridical areas of the State with the top leadership of their group and to their consternation found him more loyal to the coalition partners than to his party men.

Some observers ask why did not the Shiv Sena supremo gauge the rising current of opposition within his fold and why did he not take a political and structural decision?  The answer to this question indirectly suggests that the leadership was haughty and arrogant to assume that it commanded the final word. The parting radio speech of the outgoing Chief Minister should be read between the lines. It smacks of old and traditional clan leadership arrogantly assuming that the fifty and odd members who turned rebellious owed their political career to him and Shiv Sena alone. In other words, he was advocating for dynastic rule and authority, a phenomenon for the demolition of which the new political set-up in the country had taken a decisive and irrevocable position. The dynastic rule of the Sheikhs in Kashmir, Yadavs in Bihar and UP, Badals in Punjab, and Gandhis in Delhi had collapsed one by one. How could the Thakre house consider itself an exception?

Out of a false sense of pride and domination, Uddhav Thakre became a victim of the perversion of a couple of his close associates – the Chanakya’s – who misguided him and machinated his disaster. He is not the first VIP to have become a target of the cronies he had gathered together around him. In sheer naïveté, he could not understand how these cronies were undermining the fundamental philosophy of Shiv Sena — the Hindutava.

He is so immature in political stratagems that when fifty-odd MLAs or MPs or Private Members revolted against him, he went on beseeching them to return to Mumbai and talk to them. What had they to talk about, nothing, absolutely nothing? They had done their talk. Had he been a shrewd politician and had the real motivation of doing good to the people of his state and the country and his party and above all his person, he should have taken a flight without a single hour’s delay landed at Guwahati and marched straight to the den where the rebels were staying. He would have caught the bull by the horn and told them to do whatever they want I, as the leader of the party and the government, am with you and will do together what you want to do because this is democracy and we go by the will of the people. He could have saved his position, and above all his party from sinking deep into disaster. Only a leader with integrity, moral courage and public good could do that.

Shiv Sena as the symbol of Bala Sahib Thackeray’s supreme Maharashtra identity has suffered a setback owing to an assessment error of the scion of his house. The divided Shiv Sena may get sucked into the vortex of mutual acrimony unless a good sense prevails on the new incumbent Eknath Shinde to rise above ego and  self esteem and show due respect to his ousted leader. However he has to remember that even if he succeeds in restoring unity among all sections of the party yet it must be clear to one and all that the united Shiv Sena has to be on the same page with BJP.  The rebels have no way but to imbibe the nationalist frame of BJP and not the jingoist frame. Political wisdom and sagacity say that the government led by Eknath Shinde strives every nerve to restore the dignity and outreach of Mato Shri as it enjoyed during the heyday of Bala Sahib. That is what should happen. Shiv Sena should not remain restricted to Mato Shri and those who are the beneficiaries of its largesse. As a regional party, its strength and thrust will find curtailment no doubt. The truth is that Shiv Sena was finished the day Uddhav Thackeray had agreed to form a coalition government with Congress and NCP. One will have kudos for the manoeuvrability of both of these parties in seeing the Shiv Sena pilot dropped and his ship left to be lost on the high and tumultuous ocean of Indian politics. The role of Eknath Shinde is to recover the floating ship and bring it back to the harbour.

Prof. K.N. Pandita
Prof. K.N. Pandita
Prof. K.N. Pandita is the former Director of the Centre for Central Asian Studies, University of Kashmir. Prof. Pandita was awarded Padma Shri by the Government of India for his contribution in the field of literature and education.

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