Maharashtra politics is like a centrifuge, which despite being fed a Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP alliance last night, threw up a mess that the state is in today. For now, BJP's Devendra Fadnavis is the Chief Minister of Maharashtra and Sharad Pawar's nephew Ajit is his deputy.
Yet, political stability still appears to be miles away amid fears, the least of which is that Ajit may not have the numbers to prop up a BJP government. It is also possible, that the whole move is later termed illegal as the NCP has been claiming that Ajit duped the Governor by presenting an attendance sheet with NCP MLAs signature as letter of support.
As Maharashtra waits for the outcome of the current situation, there are still some questions that need answering especially amid shifting loyalties.
What happened late at night?
Till at least 10.30 in the night, newspapers were laid to bed with headlines proclaiming how Sena was on the verge of achieving its dream of installing its chief minister, and Uddhav was due to stake claim to form government after one final round of talks with allies NCP and Congress. Till 9 pm, Ajit was with Congress and Sena leaders at a meeting.
At 8 am next morning, TV screens were airing live visuals of Fadnavis being sworn-in as the chief minister. What transpired overnight between BJP and NCP leaders is anybody's guess, but the morning's developments suggest two serious procedures were carried out in the dead of the night.
President Ram Nath Kovind, by the powers conferred upon him by the Constitution, revoked President's Rule at 5.37 am on Tuesday, even before Sharad Pawar knew that "NCP was supporting BJP". This means that the presidential order was drafted and signed before daybreak.
Secondly, the President acts on the suggestion of the cabinet of ministers. So that means that the Union Cabinet must have held a discussion late in the night. Congress leader Sanjay Jha appeared to be asking the same questions as he asked, "At what time was the Union Cabinet meeting held that recommended revocation of President’s Rule in Maharashtra???? Who was present? Where are the minutes (of the meeting)?"
Was Sharad Pawar really ignorant of these developments?
Even though the NCP chief has asserted publicly that he came to know of Ajit's move at 7 am on Saturday, there are theories floating around that the veteran politician may have been aware of these developments.
Did Pawar Know Or No. 😎. My answer: Yes. #MaharashtraPolitics
— barkha dutt (@BDUTT) November 23, 2019
RT if you personally don’t buy this “Sharad Pawar clueless” stuff. pic.twitter.com/I9bafdVQPS
— Shiv Aroor (@ShivAroor) November 23, 2019
Even Congress leader Ahmed Patel replied with a gruff "I won't comment on that" when a reporter pressed him to clarify whether he actually believed that Pawar was clueless about these developments. News agency ANI in the morning quoted unnamed sources as saying that nothing happens in the NCP without the approval of Sharad Pawar. Some analysts believe that Pawar was complicit in the apparent coup in exchange of some favours by the ruling dispensation and now he will expel Ajit and other rebels from the party, which means they escape from the axe of anti-defection law and are able to prop up the BJP government. It is noteworthy that both Ajit and Pawar were facing some troubles with the central investigating agencies.
Is this reprise of how Sharad Pawar took the fight to Sonia by splitting Congress?
If BJP indeed convinced the nephew to rebel against his uncle under Pawar's nose, then the scenario is reminiscent of two instances in the past.
In July 1978, Pawar, like Ajit, broke away from Congress (U) party, founded by his political mentor Yashwantrao Chavan, to form a coalition government with the Janata Party. In the process, at the age of 38, he became the youngest chief minister of Maharashtra. Then in 1987, he joined back the Congress under the leadership of Rajiv Gandhi. In fact, this re-union was attributed to Shiv Sena's rise in the state and Pawar had said that the "Congress culture needs to be preserved in Maharashtra."
Then in n 1999, after the 12th Lok Sabha was dissolved and elections to the 13th Lok Sabha were called, a faction of Congress leaders led by Pawar demanded that the Congress party needed to propose someone native-born as the prime ministerial candidate and not the "Italian-born" Sonia Gandhi, who had entered party politics and replaced Sitaram Kesri as Congress president. Sonia not only expelled him but all those backing him as a response to this attack, which eventually led to Pawar establishing the Nationalist Congress Party by splitting the Congress.
What are the legal implications of the MLAs defying party president to go with the legislative party chief?
On the face of it, as per the conventional wisdom the anti-defection law is not attracted because no one seems to have defected from the NCP because the doubt is regarding the actuality of the support of the NCP to the BJP led government. The anti-defection law is invoked in two cases: when a member voluntarily gives up their membership of the political party; and when a member defies a party whip.
As far as the preset development goes, there has been no news on any official whip of the NCP directing to support or vote in any particular manner, neither has anyone officially quit the party.
Some questions may, however, be raised, if NCP goes to a court with its allegation that the MLAs signatures were misused to convey to the governor that Ajit had the backing of all 54 NCP MLAs.
Why isn't Amit Shah being talked of? Was this his way of getting back at Uddhav for making public the claim that Sena was promised rotational role?
Media circles are popularising Pawar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the 'architects of Maharashtra coup' unlike other times when BJP National President Amit Shah has been blamed to play the 'Chanakya' in politics and usurp power by less popular means.
This may be because, Pawar had met Modi in Delhi at a time when alliance talks within Maha-agadhi were at a crucial juncture. Or, it could be because Shah was already maligned as a 'liar' by Shiv Sena for 'walking back' on the promise of a rotational chief minister.
What is the role of Raj Bhavan in all this?
Congress accuses the Raj Bhavan of being complicit in BJP's "assault on democracy". The BJP, on the other hand, claims that the governor did give Sena and NCP a fair chance at government formation by inviting them both for government formation. The Raj Bhavan, however, raised some eyebrows by administering the oath to Fadnavis early in the morning, without proper information to the press.
What next for Shiv Sena? Has it taken a body blow from which it might not recover?
Friends and foes are never permanent in politics, but for the moment, it does appear like it has burnt the bridge with the BJP. All it has by means of an ally is a slippery Pawar, known for giving 'mixed signals' and an unwilling Congress. However, if Pawar manages to secure his flock and stays true to his word, the party may still have a chance at government formation after defeating BJP's trust vote.
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Updated Date: Nov 23, 2019 19:08:36 IST