The Bharatiya Janata Party is, modestly put, a dethroning-specialist. From Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Meghalaya, Manipur, Goa, Arunachal Pradesh and Puducherry, the BJP does not only believe in winning elections but also dethroning the winner of elections it has lost. And its eyes are clearly set on Maharashtra now. Dethroning the Shiv Sena-led Maha Vikas Aghadi will be sweet revenge for the BJP considering Uddhav Thackeray’s party backstabbed the BJP last minute and formed government with its arch-rivals – Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party and Sonia Gandhi’s Congress. The Sachin Waze fiasco, the allegations of corruption in the government that even ex-top cop Julio Ribeiro refuses to touch and the Maharashtra Covid super surge has made imagining the dethroning much easier.
But there’s another reason why the BJP is very keen to dismantle the Maharashtra government. The Narendra Modi-Amit Shah-led party is focussed on not allowing any viable opposition to stand against it, because, clearly, the BJP is afraid of political alternatives. With the economy tanking, it cannot afford to lose the nationalism pitch with its rich overtones of communalism. Much to the BJP’s dismay, the Shiv Sena-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) has evolved itself into a perfectly nationalist, Shivaji-loving, proudly Hindu-yet-secular front. Shiv Sena karyakartas were the original vigilantes, much before it was a political fad. So, it has quite unassumingly ticked all the boxes for a hefty vote share. Five years of the MVA government will act as a political alternative the BJP can’t afford. Which is why it is desperately trying to break the Maharashtra government.
If you thought the taking of the throne of Maharashtra was dramatic, the dethroning is nothing less than a blockbuster.
The plot thickens
There will come a time when a Netflix Original will be made on the story developing in Maharashtra. The ensemble cast will have the Maha Vikas Aghadi, the infamous ‘encounter specialist’ and assistant police inspector Sachin Hindurao Waze, former Mumbai Police commissioner Param Bir Singh, Maharashtra home minister and NCP leader Anil Deshmukh, and the richest man in India, Mukesh Ambani, and his house Antilia. The plot twist will be provided by the BJP.
This land-mine that the MVA seems to have stepped on can go off at any time, but only if the Thackeray government makes the wrong move. So far the series of bizarre events seemed too random, but when put together by former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on the floor of the house, who seemed to have more details on the case than the Mumbai Police and the Maharashtra government combined, it all connected to paint a rather corrupt picture of the Shiv Sena-led MVA.
The long and short of this fantastic series of events is a bomb scare outside Mukesh Ambani’s house Antilia due to a gelatin-laden Scorpio car parked outside that was flagged by his personal security, the subsequent death of the owner of the Scorpio (Mansukh Hiran), Devendra Fadnavis then alleging that it was Mumbai cop Sachin Waze who was tailing the Scorpio parked outside Antilia, and the subsequent letter from Param Bir Singh after he was sacked for the lapses in the case. In the letter, Singh alleged that NCP’s Anil Deshmukh had directed Waze to collect Rs 100 crore in bribes every month from restaurants, bars and hotels.
Covid, Kangana and Sushant
It’s clear that the BJP is fighting tooth and nail to bring down the Maharashtra government. So far, it has tried its luck with a plethora of issues. The BJP has continuously kept harping on the number of rising Covid cases in Maharashtra and how the Uddhav Thackeray government is completely incompetent in handling this medical emergency. But with the labourers’ exodus last year and the rising cases now, the Centre itself is looking incompetent and ill-prepared.
So, glamorous pawns were added in this fight, with Kangana Ranaut turning into a Jhansi ki Rani (with Y-plus security) trying to allege that Mumbai had turned into Pakistan under Uddhav Thackeray’s rule. Then BJP minister Narayan Rane alleging that Aaditya Thackeray was the reason behind Sushant Singh Rajput’s former manager’s death. Rane insinuated that Aditya Thackeray had raped and murdered Disha Salian.
The BJP then tried to show Mumbai as a hub of drugs in high-profile arrests with central agencies questioning film actors like Rhea Chakraborty, Deepika Padukone, Shraddha Kapoor and Sara Ali Khan. Deputy CM of Bihar and BJP leader Sushil Modi went as far as to allege that Uddhav Thackeray was trying to save actors from getting implicated in the drugs case related to Sushant Singh Rajput’s death because he was under pressure from the “Bollywood mafia”. Add to this the laughable drama created by Arnab Goswami’s TRP scam and arrest, and an entire army of actors, journalists and politicians were all guns blazing at the Maha Vikas Aghadi. The BJP may have won some emotional points in Bihar through these tactics but none of it worked to taint the Maharashtra government.
The corruption plank
The BJP has now gone back to its tried-and-tested method to try and bring down the Thackeray government. The corruption plank. It brought down UPA at the Centre in 2014 with the same tactic enraging people against the Gandhis – the loathsome ‘damaad’ Robert Vadra and his acres of land acquired for peanuts, the Augusta Westland VVIP chopper deal, the 2G Spectrum scam, the Adarsh scam, the CWG scam, and so on and so forth. In fact, the BJP is trying the same thing in the upcoming West Bengal assembly election – trying to point out the corruption in Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek’s family. It’s another thing that ‘loyalists’ like Mukul Roy, Suvendu Adhikari and Sovan Chatterjee, all named in the Saradha chit fund scam, became spotless when they joined the BJP.
But Maharashtra is a way more complicated case because it also involves a threat to the richest man in India – Mukesh Ambani – by a cop who the BJP alleges is close to Uddhav Thackeray. Fadnavis has alleged that Thackeray had requested him to reinstate Waze in 2018 after he was taken out of service after the custodial death of Khwaja Yunus. And Param Bir Singh’s letter isn’t helping the MVA either. It is now advantage BJP.
The author is a political observer and writer. Views are personal.
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