The mayhem in Maharashtra politics is perhaps coming to an end after the BJP-led government, that assumed power Saturday, collapsed just four days later Tuesday and the Shiva Sena NCP Congress coalition staked claim to form the government. The political drama has been long, confusing and completely unprecedented as is obvious from the front pages of mainstream newspapers Wednesday.
Hindustan Times: The front page headline focuses on the BJP — “BJP’s Maha Plan Unravels”. It writes that Devendra Fadnavis has “admitted his administration didn’t command a majority and resigned, capping 80 dramatic hours”. The report also notes that the government’s fall “came hours after the Supreme Court ordered a floor test by 5 pm on Wednesday”.
HT also carries a story on NCP chief Sharad Pawar with the headline “Pawar vs Pawar: How uncle ended nephew’s coup bid” and highlights how, when such a story is written “a substantial part of it will focus on how Sharad Pawar… the grand old man of Maharashtra outwitted his ambitious nephew”.
The Indian Express: Express mentions the fact that this drama unfolded, ironically, on National Constitution Day: “After dark night, Constitution Day”, it headlines. In an accompanying report, it notes the BJP’s loss by saying “From a Pawargrab to Pawar pushback: How BJP lost vote of overconfidence”. Express writes that this loss will hurt the party more because “this time the office of the President and PM were dragged in to impose President’s rule”.
Sharad Pawar was, undeniably, the winner in Maharashtra and Express agrees with HT that “the grand old man of Maharashtra politics… emerged as the undisputed anchor and face of the three-party alliance”.
The Times of India: TOI has been using cricket analogies for Maharashtra politics in the past few weeks and continued today as well with the headline: “Pawar Play: Uddhav In, Fadnavis Out, Ajit Retd Hurt”. The paper reports that this was the third briefest governments ever.
TOI is the only one to note that the governor’s decision to invite BJP to form a government, in the first place, is still under the Supreme Court’s lens. It also carries a report tracing how Ajit Pawar eventually submitted his resignation after a morning meeting with uncle Sharad Pawar. The NCP chief’s wife, it notes, was also “keen on a reconciliation with Ajit”.
The Hindu: Hindu, as always, gives a fairly prosaic headline: “Uddhav stakes claim to form govt.”. The paper also carries a report on the SC judgment and quotes the bench saying that “It is the Legislative Assembly that represents the will of the people — and not the Governor”.
The Telegraph: Telegraph channels a nursery rhyme for its headline: “All the king’s horses and men could not save Grumpy Dumpty”. In its strap, the paper writes that “Neither the President nor the PM can wash their hands of the darkest episode in recent memory”. Telegraph also comments on claims that Home Minister Amit Shah was ‘Chanakya’ with a photograph of the historical figure and writes: “Let’s be clear for once and for all… this is Chanakya”. It also carries a quote by Chanakya on Page 1, taking a potshot at Shah: “the root of right governance is victorious inner-restraint, the root of victorious inner-restraint is humility”.
Hindustan Times: Devendra Fadnavis quit three days after claiming a moral high ground, it says. BJP’s “brazen usurpation of power left a term of vandalised norms” but the party not being allowed to carry forward its power grab “is a tribute to India’s constitutional order”. The Supreme Court realised that it becomes “incumbent upon the court to act when there is a possibility of horse trading”.
The tactics BJP employed to seize power were “breathtaking but not entirely unprecedented”, it says. It claims that the governor used his discretion in a “blatantly partisan manner” to form a government based on “dubious claims”. There is a need to define the boundaries of the governor’s use of discretion in inviting a party to form a government, it suggests. The BJP’s nocturnal capture of power in Maharashtra was a dispiriting episode in Indian democracy and the court order offers hope that India’s constitutional order will “force its caretakers to behave”, it concludes.
The Hindu: A sordid political chapter has come to an end which has lessons for both the central and the state governments, as well as for Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari, says Hindu. When BJP did not have the numbers in the first instance, it rightly said so. It was on a moral high ground earlier to accuse its pre-poll partner of betraying the mandate. But it took the first opportunity to form the government “with an only-too-eager Mr Koshiyari swearing in Mr Fadnavis and Mr Pawar”.
BJP acted unwisely and has no moral high ground as it tried to ally with a corruption-accused leader, it says.
The Sena-NCP-Congress alliance represents the coming together of disparate partners but its not clear yet if it will deliver coherent governance or be stable. But it is the BJP which has the most to learn from its failures in Maharashtra, it concludes.
The turn-around in Maharashtra politics on Constitution Day provided channels with the opportunity to spice things up: Aaj Tak called Sharad Pawar the “real Chanakya”, while ABP News declared “Ab ki baar, Thackeray sarkaar”. Zee News said the episode was something like a “TV serial”.
BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra, during a debate on News18, used a transphobic slur saying he wasn’t “some eunuch who’ll dance in front of Sonia Gandhi” on the same day the controversial Transgender Persons’ (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019 was passed in the parliament.
TV9 Bharatvarsh: Anchor Sumair Khan tried to decode what happened in Maharashtra in the past 24 hours and called it ‘the five-star politics’.
BJP’s Rajeev Jaitley targetted Congress over its alliance with Shiv Sena: “The party which was associated with the Hindutva ideology for the past 30 years, Congress made it another ‘Muslim league’ by joining hands with it”.
“Sharad Pawar’s stature has increased not only in Maharashtra, but in national politics as well after this incident,” said senior journalist Rahul Dev. He said that the senior BJP leadership has made “a big mistake” by blindly believing in Ajit Pawar’s claim of having a majority.
Shiv Sena’s Atul Kumar declared Supreme Court’s orders in favour of NCP-Congress-Shiv Sena alliance as a “constitutional victory on Constitution Day”.
“At least we are not splitting someone’s family for the sake of power,” he added, chiding the BJP.
NDTV India: Ravish Kumar’s show, titled ‘Power, Pawar aur Samvidhan Diwas ka tyohar (Power, Pawar and the festival of Constitution Day) discussed everything from Maharashtra’s politics to healthcare.
Kumar said that Devendra Fadnavis should have done a press conference before taking oath as the chief minister, just as he had done before resigning. Kumar went on to question the BJP’s “constitutional ethics,” given that Fadnavis started taking policy decisions before he could prove a majority.
News18: On #TheRightStand, Anand Narasimhan asked panelists which side they were on in the #MahaPawarPlay.
Radhakrishnan, Shiv Sena leader, said, “Shiv Sena pramukh Uddhavji was categorically told that a Shiv Sainik would be made CM…. there is a leadership crisis in BJP, there is no leader.”
Anchor Narasimhan interjected him and asked: “We gave vote to the Shiv Sena where there was no BJP candidate, now how are you going and aligning with the Congress-NCP?
Radhakrishnan retorted, saying: “We did not take votes in the name of Modi, we got votes in the name of Hindu samrat Balasaheb Thackerayji.”
Tuhin Sinha, BJP spokesperson, said, “I wish this government best of luck but the truth is that this conglomeration has very little dignity.”
India Today: On #NewsToday with Rajdeep Sardesai on the #MahaPoliticalThriller, Congress spokesperson Sanjay Jha said, “If anyone has done a great betrayal it is the BJP. They reneged on a promise to its most steadfast ally.”
More bizarrely, the show ended with a round of antakshari, where BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra, senior journalist Ketan Vaidya and NCP spokesperson Clyde Crasto sang songs to articulate Maharashtra’s politics.
Crasto even took out his guitar to sing “zindagi ki yahi reet hai, haar ke baad hi jeet hai” (The rule of life is that you win only after losing).