With the stage set in Shivaji Park for the swearing-in of the first member from Thackeray clan as chief minister, the broad contours of the new Maha Vikas Aghadi coalition government have been set after a six-hour-long marathon meeting between the three major constituents.
Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray will surely have a tough time keeping his two major allies happy. Now that the political storm is over, people are still waiting for the Shiv Sena to clarify why it left its decades-old saffron ideology and joined hands with a political rival like the Congress.
Congress had been questioning the very existence of Lord Ram in courts, and Shiv Sena was at the forefront of the Ayodhya Ram temple movement. Shiv Sena had the image of being a saffron party espousing Hindutva, and the Congress used to call all Hindutva supporters as communal. It had been the consistent demand of Shiv Sena to give Bharat Ratna to Veer Savarkar, the Hindutva ideologue, and Congress used to question the greatness of Savarkar.
The question now is: how will Uddhav Thackeray bridge this wide gap between two opposite ideologies. Uddhav Thackeray and his party organ 'Saamna' had been roundly criticizing the Congress, Sonia and Rahul Gandhi for decades.
The harsh reality remains that Uddhav Thackeray broke Shiv Sena''s 30-year-old friendship with BJP for the sake of two and a half years of chief ministership. BJP president Amit Shah has said that he or his party never promised chief ministership to the Shiv Sena and in almost every major rally in the presence of Uddhav and Aaditya Thackeray, the party projected Devendra Fadnavis as the chief ministerial candidate. Neither Udhav nor Aaditya then challenged this assertion. Election results also showed the BJP had won 105 and the Shiv Sena 56 seats. BJP was clearly the bigger partner and had the right to claim chief ministership.,
Naturally, Shiv Sena leaders have a lot to answer before the people. BJP could have posed these questions in a forthright manner till the time it made the midnight blunder of accepting NCP leader Ajit Pawar's support.
It is true that Devendra Fadnavis made a big mistake in trusting Ajit Pawar's promise and he admitted the same in his press conference. But leaders in state BJP, who had been deprived of their ministerial posts and were denied party tickets, have now got the chance to strike back at Fadnavis. BJP leader Eknath Khadse on Wednesday questioned the wisdom behind accepting support from Ajit Pawar who is an accused in the massive irrigation scam.
In my long experience as a journalist in the world of Indian politics, I have never seen an individual like Ajit Pawar. He revolted in his family, tried to break the party, attempted to foil his supreme leader's efforts to forge a coalition, and yet coolly returned to the party and family, saying "I was always with the NCP, I am in the NCP and I shall stay in the NCP."
At the Wednesday meeting, he occupied a seat nearer to his uncle Sharad Pawar. The Maratha strongman knows that it was Ajit Pawar who practically ran the party for the last two decades, and he has a good hold on most of the party leaders. Surely there has never been such a precedent, with a leader revolting in his party and then coolly returning to claim the seat of power.
Credit for keeping the family and party intact goes to Sharad Pawar's daughter Supriya Sule, who toiled hard for the past two weeks. She personally welcomed each MLA to the meetings.
Supriya has learnt a lot from her father, who continues to be a mass leader, who had always contacts with the roots, mixing with common people. It is an open secret that Sharad Pawar wanted his daughter to become his political heir, but every time Ajit Pawar used to come in the way. After this political circus, Supriya Sule's stature has grown considerably, while Ajit Pawar's stature among his people has taken a hit.
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