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Are new developments in Maharashtra really a masterstroke?

By Vinod Kumar Shukla- 03 Jul 2022


New Delhi (04.07.2022): A new government is installed in Maharashtra with rebel Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde, who is now expelled from the party by Uddhav Thackeray, taking over as the new Chief Minister but the real story is former CM Devendra Phadnavis taking oath as the Deputy CM. Social media enthusiasts and BJP netizens are calling the move a masterstroke despite the fact that his body language, facial expression and the way he was carrying himself after his name was announced for the post of Dy CM suggested otherwise. Only time will tell if this is a masterstroke or hit wicket but aye-sayers and naysayers have their own arguments.
A Shiv Sena CM replacing a Thackeray will certainly decimate the political authority of the family in Maharashtra which of late was struggling to keep their party folks together. This decision will end the family control over the party. Moreover, the family charisma is completely missing after the demise of Bal Thackeray. Now, for any harsh decision against SS, NCP and the Congress leaders who are involved and might be found to be involved in corruption cases Eknath Shinde will be held responsible. Hindutva politics will once again be played in Maharashtra with every accountability of Shinde.
Some clashes might also take place in Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra that the BJP has very cleverly made a Shiv Sena versus Shiv Sena by bringing Shinde at the helm instead of it being a Shiv Sena versus the BJP. Apparently, with this move the BJP wants to finish the rest of the SS in the state to emerge as the only Hindutva flag bearer in the state. The BJP under Phadnavis was accused of running a Peshwai in Maharashtra for him being a Brahmin leader by politicians like Sharad Pawar. Pawar was able to generate support of the Maratha community with this kind of argument but with Shinde being in the saddle will blunt the edge of the weapon of the aging Maratha leader in the state. So the decision seems to be hitting many birds with just one stone and the BJP will save itself from any blame or backlash too.
Maharashtra is no exception to conspiracy theories that suggested that there was no harsh statement from Pawar over this coup against the Thackeray government. This suggests that his purpose to form the government in Maharashtra with Shiv Sena is over. Now, he will chart his own course who feels that some year of active politics still remains with him. Moreover, with Shinde at the helm of affairs, it is also being said that the party will gradually disappear from the political scenario of Maharashtra as he can’t ever be a Bal Thackeray. Thackerays will try to bring back rebels to the party fold again.
After many other games of political one-upmanship to bring back rebels, Uddhav played the emotional card as the last resort and tried to get sympathy by saying that the BJP wanted to dislodge a Shiv Sena government to form a BJP-led government. But the idea was nipped at the bud before it traveled to people. On the contrary, the BJP has managed to send a message to Shiv Sainiks who always wanted a Marathi Manus at the helm, Marathi glory underlined, and a Maratha taking over reins in Mumbai that they are here for the same cause. The BJP has helped them realise their dream that they were cherishing since the formation of Shiv Sena in 1966. This is what the BJP wants to make people understand by these moves.
But what they really want to gain is rather more important and real. When in 2019 Phadnavis took the oath of office of Maharashtra CM early in the morning with Ajit Pawar as his deputy, the objective was clear to have a BJP government in Maharashtra. But lots of dirty linen have been washed in public since then and the BJP wanted to put a check on this to achieve its objective for the 2024 elections. So it is an attempt to restore faith among electorates that the BJP is the party to rely on for the welfare of the people of Maharashtra. BMC elections are the first test that the BJP and its newly found partner will be put to test in August-September this year. In the last elections, the BJP and Shiv Sena had a difference of just two seats with 82 and 84 seats, respectively in BMC.
The BJP wants to give a message to the people that it is the only party that can provide them stability and faster development. The new government is likely to expedite projects like the Metro and bullet train which were halted after the Thackeray government took over in the state in 2019. The BJP’s focus is more on the 2024 Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. Now, they have a 175 plan for 2024 Assembly elections out of 288 seats in Maharashtra Assembly to form the government of their own. For the bigger gain, they seem to have sacrificed the chair of the CM that is just for half term. The visibly upset Phadnavish swallowed the poison for the party as a disciplined worker. But sacrificing the self-respect of an individual over party is rather a better political game plan that the BJP leadership appears to have played. One thing is also certain that the government will have a bumpy ride not only in running the government but also tackling the issues on the street with the other SS group not leaving any chance for the CM to relax or remain at ease. Moreover, the change of names of cities like Aurangabad and one other will see protests from AIMIM whose MP Imtiaz Jaleel already threatened to take the matter from the street to the highest level. All these issues are the responsibility of the CM to handle and all praise and criticism will only go to the CM. But who will be benefited out of these developments is still a matter to speculate on. 
(By Vinod Kumar Shukla)

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