BY QUAID NAJMI
Mumbai, Nov 15 (IANS) For the first time in its 59-year old history, Maharashtra, India’s second most politically important state and base of the country’s financial centre, is facing an intriguing, political situation after the October 21 Assembly elections.
On October 24, the polls threw up a fractured mandate with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party getting 105, its then ally Shiv Sena 56, the opposition Nationalist Congress Party 54 and Congress 44, and the rest to Independents and smaller parties.
After this outcome 22 days ago, a bewildering situation has unfolded in which all the parties – individually and as past or upcoming groups – confidently claiming that they would form the state government.
For the 22nd consecutive day on Friday, BJP state President Chandrakant Patil edgily reassured that it was not possible to form the government without including its 105 MLAs, plus others making a total of 119 legislators, but has simultaneously claimed that the party will adopt “a wait-and-watch attitude” for the present.
On the Sena front, its MP Sanjay Raut full-throatedly declared, again for the 22nd day non-stop, that “only a Shiv Sena-led government will take office soon” at his tete-a-tete with media persons on Friday.
Its prospective allies – the Congress-NCP – have proclaimed that a government with Shiv Sena as the main partner would be sworn-in soon and the nitty-gritties are being worked out.
Amidst all these “morale-boosters”, it is only the newly-elected legislators of all parties and the media persons who seem to be most concerned about the ongoing government formation efforts in Maharashtra.
Sena President Uddhav Thackeray, Congress’ state chief Balasaheb Thorat and even NCP chief Sharad Pawar, have repeatedly counseled their nail-biting legislators that “All Is Well”, and there is no possibility of the dreaded mid-term elections anytime.
All the three parties also point out that when they needed just a couple of days’ time, they have now got six months duration (President’s Rule) within which to form the government, sending scary thoughts among the legislators and rattling the weary media.
Presently, sources in all the parties reveal their version of the possible unfolding political plot in the government formation imbroglio.
The BJP is confident that it will return to power, and former CM Devendra Fadnavis will be able to vindicate his promise – “Mee punha yaeen” – with a second term swearing-in. But nobody is willing to explain how it hopes to touch the magic figure of 145 for a simple majority in the 288-member house.
In a strange contradiction, the party leaders also darkly warn that any “khichdi” dispensation being dished out by the others would not last beyond a few days/weeks, and again the reins of power would come in the BJP’s control.
On the other hand, if their alliance is finalized, the Sena-NCP-Congress already command a clear total figure of 154 MLAs (56+54+44 respectively), plus some independents and other parties, which could give it a significant edge over the BJP’s 119.
Then why the delays, demand their exasperated legislators in private and in party meetings, as also the frustrated media.
Former Leader of Opposition Vijay Wadettiwar, of the Congress, patiently tried to explain on Thursday – saying that “the main challenge is not government formation, but to sustain it for the full five-year term” by the three prospective allies (Sena-NCP-INC) on the basis of a Common Minimum Program (CMP).
To questions on the BJP’s claims that it would form the government, Pawar, Thorat and Raut have thrown the gauntlet – “Let them (BJP) go to Governor and stake their claim!”
Officially, the three potential allies have finalized their CMP and awaiting the nod of the respective party high commands – Sena’s Thackeray, NCP’s Pawar and Congress’ Sonia Gandhi.
Off records, party sources indicate that various power-sharing formulae have been discussed pertaining to the post of CM, the term (30-60 months), the post of Deputy CM, the heavy-medium-light ministerial portfolios and the coveted post of Speaker.
“We are hopeful that Pawar-Sonia will finalize things at their Sunday meeting in New Delhi and an announcement would be made soon on government formation,” said a senior Sena leader.
As if all this was not enough, there are wild cloak-and-dagger stories that some influential corporate houses maybe indulging in back-office politicking to ensure their favourite party/parties come to power in the state.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)