Nearly two weeks after the results of the Maharashtra Assembly elections were announced, the state does not appear to be anywhere close to getting a government.
On Monday, the political wrangling moved to Delhi, where Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis met BJP chief Amit Shah and NCP supremo Sharad Pawar met Congress working president Sonia Gandhi. Meanwhile, the Shiv Sena's Sanjay Raut met Maharashtra governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari. Yet, the outlook for the near future is as hazy as the capital's air as of now.
While the official reason behind Fadnavis' meet with Shah was to raise issues pertaining to farmers hit by unseasonal rains, the claim stretches credulity, to put it mildly. After all, agrarian distress is not, strictly speaking, in the domain of the home ministry.
Both, the BJP and Shiv Sena, are presently attempting to put the onus on each other with regard to government formation. Subsequent to the meeting between Fadnavis and Shah, PTI had quoted sources as saying that the BJP stood by its end of alliance and always worked in the spirit of collation dharma. The sources said that as far as government formation in Maharashtra was concerned, the ball was in the Shiv Sena's court. In a similar vein, Raut also told reporters that the party is not standing in the way of government formation in Maharashtra and that it wants that the process to be completed.
"The Shiv Sena is not responsible for the ongoing confusion and for the fact that the government has not yet been formed," he said.
War of editorials
Meanwhile, a war of editorials is also underway between the Shiv Sena's mouthpiece Saamana and the RSS-backed newspaper Tarun Bharat. On Tuesday, a Saamana editorial said, "Those who are stalling government formation, and, taking advantage of the situation, managing the affairs of the state through covert means, are behaving in an unconstitutional manner."
On 2 November, Saamana was more forthright as it attacked senior leader Sudhir Mungantiwar's comment that the state may be headed for President's Rule if the current impasse did not end. The newspaper wrote, "Mungantiwar's threat is anti-democratic and unconstitutional. It also insults the mandate of the people in the elections. The election results have shattered the arrogance of those who believed that they had the birthright to be in power, and who believed that irrespective of whether they had the numbers or not, no one else should form the government."
On its part, Tarun Bharat wrote on Tuesday, in a reference to Raut's recent claims about 175 MLAs backing a Shiv Sena-led government, "If even a little child would understand that there is no possibility of a government being formed without the BJP, should he (Raut) not understand this? It is still not too late. Like the BJP, the Shiv Sena too has a responsibility to respect the people's mandate." On Monday, the newspaper had likened Raut to 'Betaal', the mythological ghost known for challenging King Vikramaditya with his witty riddles. "The Shiv Sena must be aware of the fact that one who cuts a branch while sitting on it is not a wood-cutter but sheikh chilli (a comic character known for his vain boasts)," it quipped.
"The mandate is for the 'mahayuti' (BJP-Sena alliance) and going by the number of seats won, the people have decided who is the big brother between them," the newspaper said.
BJP-Sena alliance over the decades
It is precisely this point — the tussle for being the "big brother" — that has been at the heart of the blow-hot-blow-cold ties between the two allies over the years. Until 2009, the Shiv Sena could claim that position, as it had more seats than the national party. In 2009, the BJP won 46 seats, edging past the Sena's tally of 45. It was little surprise, therefore, that in 2014, a resurgent BJP with Narendra Modi as its face was no longer willing to play second fiddle. The two parties contested the elections separately, and the BJP left the Shiv Sena miles behind, winning 122 seats as against the regional party's 63 seats.
Even at the time, the Shiv Sena had taken a long time to come round to becoming a part of the government. On 31 October 2014, Fadnavis was sworn in as Maharashtra chief minister, after the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) extended outside support to the government. It had taken the BJP over a month to rope in the support of the Shiv Sena — the regional party only formally joined the government in a cabinet expansion on 5 December, 2014. Even after that, it often took potshots at the state government much like an Opposition party, over issues such as farm distress and the BJP's politics of "arrogance."
This time round, the Shiv Sena has all the more reason to play hardball. The BJP has secured 105 seats, well short of the halfway mark of 144 seats. This was also the first election in which a member of the Thackeray family, 29-year-old Aaditya Thackeray, entered electoral politics. Following Aaditya's win from Worli, posters supporting him for the chief minister's post have come up near Matoshree, the residence of Uddhav Thackeray.
There is also the recent precedent of Karnataka, where an unlikely coalition between the Congress and JD(S) formed a government, despite the BJP being the single largest party by far. That experiment, however, was short-lived, and the BJP came back to power fourteen months after the election, in July 2019.
Nevertheless, the unfolding events and the history of the state suggests that the Shiv Sena is unlikely to enter an agreement with the BJP without a long fight.
With inputs from PTI
Updated Date: Nov 05, 2019 19:06:53 IST