In a year of unlikely alliances, the Shiv Sena, backed by Congress and Sharad Pawar-led NCP, emerged triumphant with its party chief becoming the first ‘Thackeray’ to occupy the chief ministerial chair. The year saw a political potboiler playing out in Maharashtra where BJP and Shiv Sena took maximum space before and after the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in the state. In the Lok Sabha polls, Congress and NCP faced their second consecutive poor performance and they were further weakened when the BJP inducted several top leaders of the two parties into its fold.
The Assembly election held in October saw a war of words between Devendra Fadnavis and Sharad Pawar. Both leaders toured the state to campaign for their respective candidates. Based on the pre-poll alliance between the BJP and Sena, Devendra Fadnavis – who became the first chief minister after Vasantrao Naik of Congress to complete his five year tenure – was set for another term as the CM.
However, the lengthy political drama that unfolded after the Assembly election results were announced, saw political realignments, leading to Shiv Sena forming the government, supported by ‘opponents’ Congress and NCP. The Maha Vikas Aghadi government of the three parties was formed after a brief spell of President’s rule and the Devendra Fadnavis-Ajit Pawar government which lasted three days.
While the Uddhav Thackeray-led party consistently maintained that the two parties (BJP and Sena) agreed to equal sharing of posts and responsibilities if voted to power again, Fadnavis categorically denied any such decision was taken. He said he spoke to BJP chief Amit Shah who said no such decision to share chief minister’s post was taken. This enraged the mild mannered Uddhav Thackeray, who said the BJP was calling him a liar. “We don’t want to keep any relation with a party that tries to label its ally as liar,” he said.
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This virtually ended any chance of a compromise between the two pre-poll allies. BJP, the single largest party, whose tally came down from 122 to 105 expressed its inability to form government when Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari asked it to stake claim. Maharashtra, the second largest state after Uttar Pradesh, has 48 Lok Sabha MPs and 288 MLAs. Ahead of the state Assembly elections, Shah visited Matoshree, residence of Uddhav Thackeray, for talks on a pre-poll alliance.
The love-hate relationship between the two parties continued since 2014 when the BJP overtook the Uddhav Thackeray-led party in terms of MLAs. Despite being a junior partner in the Fadnavis government, Sena also played the role of opposition, criticising the government on various issues. In January last year, Shiv Sena had declared that it was breaking all ties with the BJP and would contest the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and Maharashtra Assembly elections independently.
However, the parties overcame their differences to come together for the Lok Sabha elections which saw the BJP returning to power at the Centre with a bigger mandate than in 2014. Shiv Sena was offered 24 seats by the BJP, four more than the 2014 election. In 2014 too, both the parties contested Maharashtra polls separately. The BJP then formed the government on the basis of being the single largest party with 122 seats. The Shiv Sena, which had then won 63 seats, joined the government a month later.
This year, the saffron allies managed to work out a 23-25 seat deal for Lok Sabha while for the Assembly polls, despite talk of equal seat sharing, Sena contested 124 and BJP 164 seats. Despite the Uddhav Thackeray-led government completing a month in power, the allocation of portfolios and cabinet expansion is yet to be done. It is expected on December 30.
Political observers say the new government is slowly settling down and the three parties sharing power know that stability of the government is important for their political survival and to withstand BJP’s pulls and pressures. During the year, NCP leader Ajit Pawar was given a clean chit by the ACB in the ‘irrigation scam’.
Pawar, then VIDC chairman, can’t be held responsible for acts of the executing agencies as there is no legal duty on his part, the affidavit filed in the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court on November 27 stated. Another affidavit filed on December 19 stated that ACB did not find any “criminal liability” against Ajit Pawar in the multi-crore irrigation scam.
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Source: Financial Express