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HomeOpinionMaharashtra govt's crisis, and how only Sharad Pawar can salvage it now

Maharashtra govt’s crisis, and how only Sharad Pawar can salvage it now

In episode 480 of #CutTheClutter, Shekhar Gupta talks about the crisis in Maharashtra govt as the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress alliance struggles with the rising Covid numbers.

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New Delhi: Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and his son Aaditya Thackeray must turn to their ally, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, for a tutorial in real politics.

During the 1992-93 riots in Mumbai, P.V. Narsimha Rao, the then Prime Minister, had requested Pawar to go down to the state and take over the reigns as chief minister to control the situation.

He was able to do so effectively because he had the experience, and if there is one person who can salvage the Maharashtra government right now, it’s Sharad Pawar.

Additionally, if there is one person who can bring down this government, it is Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, and two men who can be his allies in letting this government fall — Uddhav Thackeray and his son.

Pawar spent over an hour with Governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari Monday, triggering speculation about the stability of the government at a time when the Maha Vikas Aghadi government seems to be flailing in its response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The NCP leader, however, called on Uddhav Thackeray soon after. Pawar has always given many signals without saying anything. Former President Pranab Mukherjee once told Shekhar Gupta that “Sharad Pawar always gives mixed signals”.

Furthermore, he plays a key role in holding this government together in Maharashtra.

One party domination

The Maharashtra coalition government is presently being dominated by just one party — the Shiv Sena. By extension, it is dominated by that one family and that one father-son duo.

This dominance has led to a number of issues, including why today, as the government is under attack, Shiv Sena’s own ally Congress isn’t defending it aggressively.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi distanced himself from the state government Tuesday when he said the Congress is only playing a supporting role in Maharashtra.

“We are supporting the government in Maharashtra, but we are not the key decision-maker in Maharashtra. We are decision-makers in Punjab, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Puducherry. There is a difference between running the government and supporting it,” he said at a press conference.

Gandhi was responding to questions on the rising coronavirus cases in the state, and a potential rift between the three ruling parties given their handling of the crisis.

This came even as Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut asserted Tuesday that the government is “strong”, after the meeting between Thackeray and Pawar.

After Gandhi’s comment created a flutter in Maharashtra political circles, he called up Thackeray to assure him of the Congress’ full support to the government.

A ‘three-legged stool’ coalition 

The alliance of the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress is unsustainable and akin to an uneven “three-legged stool”.

While Thackeray’s Shiv Sena has 56 seats, the NCP has 54 and the Congress has only 44 seats in the state assembly.

As a result, the Thackerays form a long leg of the stool, while the NCP and the Congress are the two shorter legs. The solution is to either saw off the longer leg, or to fix the shorter ones. In this case, the shorter two legs have been sawn off further, in terms of the representation in the Cabinet, among other things.

Father-son teams aren’t new and exist across state governments, such as Chief Minister K.Chandrasekhar Rao and his son K.T. Rama Rao in Telangana. Or, in Punjab, former chief minister and Shiromani Akali Dal leader Parkash Singh Badal and his son Sukhbir Singh Badal, deputy CM from 2009-2017, ruled the state.

However, in all these examples, the CM’s and their ruling parties enjoyed a sweeping majority. Unlike in Maharashtra’s case where the Shiv Sena has only 56 seats in a very large house. Here, it’s a highly inexperienced father-son duo running the government.

Why Gandhi isn’t defending the govt

Rahul Gandhi is not defending the government for two reasons.

For one, Gandhi is concerned that if things go terribly wrong in Maharashtra, it could become a symbol of loss of control in the fight against Covid-19 and that is a failure that the Congress party wouldn’t want to be associated with. So Congress may be developing cold feet.

Secondly, Gandhi may be wondering what the Congress stands to gain by defending the government at such a time. While some of Congress leaders got a place in the state’s Cabinet, this isn’t a coalition government, it’s essentially a Shiv Sena government.

Watch the full episode of CTC here: 

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  1. I think that old guards has no role in playing game. Today’s Maharashtra Leader is Devendra Fadanvis only. Nobody can compete with him. Fadanvis is a Defacto Leader & Sejuti too. Fadanvis will decide the future of Maharashtra.

  2. Sir, I liked cut the clutters a lot but this one is very ill informed. In Maharashtra, NCP has finance, home, food and civil supply and health ministries which are most important in COVID times. Total power sharing is NCP has 12 Cabinet ministers and four MoS, Shiv Sena has 10 Cabinet ministers and four MoS, while Congress has 10 Cabinet ministers and two MoS. In this Shiv sena has CM, NCP has deputy CM and Congress has speaker.
    From portfolios one can easily understand that NCP has more COVID related portfolios, but they are creating a perception that only Uddhav is responsible for all mismanagement. He is only ‘CM for name (now responsibility) sake’. All power(‘malai’) and leverage is with NCP, they can go either way. So please get your facts checked.

  3. In my view, it is wrong to presume that only one party benefited due to the Aghadi alliance. The party which benefited the most is NCP not Shiv Sena. They got most of the important ministries including Home. Furthermore, let us not forget Sharad Pawar is the ‘ godfather’ of this alliance. He is the fulcrum and the foundation. The alliance was conceived even prior to the elections. The Shiv Sena, though fought the elections officially in alliance with the BJP, there was a tacit understanding with NCP about the post-election strategy. Sharad Pawar being the mastermind of the the strategy. This was brilliant politics, if one observes it with detached non-partisan neutrality. So, one would expect the alliance to be stable, unless the state handles the Covid crisis with extreme inefficiency. As of now, neither the Centre nor the states, barring few exceptions, have handled the crisis with any appreciable efficiency or excellence. But, Maharashtra has undoubtedly fared most poorly and its performance is worsening with lapse of time. It’s share in confirmed cases and in active cases is rising alarmingly. Let us see what lies ahead for the state. One more addition, though it may appear very strange at this juncture: if Shiv Sena leaves the Aghadi and joins the BJP with the express condition that it would retain the CM post for the residual tenure, it is likely to be benefited the most, as it would get one half share in the power not one third and that alliance would even more stable than the present arrangement, though this is the most unlikely scenario.

  4. All ATM ministries are with NCP. ONLY major ministry with SS is urban development. Thackeray’s do not want to give up their control over Mumbai-Thane and only thing Pawar controls in Mumbai is Cricket Association. So he and his NCP sardar will allow Thackerays to screw themselves in Mumbai.

    Thereafter Pawar will send his signals to Modi.

  5. Shri Sharad Pawar became CM of Maharashtra in 1978. At age 38, no one accused him of inexperience, lack of maturity / political judgment. At this stage of life, the idea of wielding the remote control is no big deal for him. He had an open offer from the BJP, equally attractive in terms of power sharing. In his wisdom, he has opted for this somewhat unusual coalition, would like to see it complete five years in office. It is for the principal beneficiaries of this arrangement to not just acquiesce but to actively seek his guidance and mentorship. The management style of the previous CM – how productive it was in terms of governance and development is a separate issue – cannot be treated as a model for a government that rests uneasily on three prods.

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