Retaining power isn’t child’s play

Resurgent BJP and wily Pawar keep Uddhav on his toes as Maharashtra coalition government completes one year, writes Manmohan Singh Naula

Is the suave and softspoken Chief Minister of Maharashtra juggles with chanting coalition mantra to keep its ruling partners — NCP and Congress in good humor and warding off missives thrown frequently at his government by the unpredictable opposition BJP, the Thackeray has learnt the hard way that the world outside Matoshree is not as rosy as it seemed from his comfort zone. The 12 months have been completed since Thackeray assumed office on November 28, 2019.

Uddhav Thackeray seems to be on a roller coaster ride: He adroitly manages the pulls and pressures posed by his strange bedfellows – the NCP and the Congress, on umpteen occasions. But he gracefully proved that he no longer carries the baggage of street-smart political traits his party — Shiv Sena is known for. As the head of Maharashtra administration, Thackeray proved that he meant business.

On many occasions he differed with his two coalition partners on certain sensitive political issues, such as handing over the Bhima-Koregaon case to the National Investigative Agency (NIA), which the Maratha strongman Sharad Pawar had staunchly opposed. Besides his soft pedaling on CAA and NRC, he was also criticized for the ham-handed attitude of the policemen in the state during lockdowns, not only by the BJP but also by his two coalition partners who had openly expressed their displeasure over the role of the cops.

Political pundits’ speculations that an ‘unusual bedfellows’ — ultra-right Shiv Sena, Sharad Pawar’s ambivalent NCP and secular Congress would not last long has been proved wrong. Uddhav kept his wits about him and the alliance is saved from getting doomed: On multiple occasions better sense prevailed that outweighed contradictions.

Centre had left no stone unturned to destabilise the state government which proved futile. Actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s suicide was used to implicate Uddhav and his son Aditya Thackeray. But their effort bore no fruit as the post mortem report of the AIIMS indicated that the actor had committed suicide and was not murdered.

The Maha Vikas Aghadi government’s landmark decision to waive off 38,000 crore loan, providing relief to 40 lakh odd farmers is being praised even by his bitter critics. This has further bolstered the party’s clout over agrarian community of the state.

The government had renamed the Nagpur-Mumbai Samruddhi corridor after late Bal Thackeray — the mercurial Sena founder. The government had also ordered a probe into the alleged irregularities in the Jalyukt Shivar water conservation scheme — a scheme launched by the former CM Devendra Fadnavis, post CAG’s stricture.

At a time when the nation is slammed into a dead end after the democratic practice of consultation and coordination have lost track, Uddhav’s affable demeanor has won the hearts of many: He takes everyone along and doesn’t impose himself.

In a difficult time like this when pandemic covid 19 has paralyzed life, the decision of the government to implement new norms and prevent people to congregate in religious places of worship in order to check its spread, the MVA government was currently under Governor BS Koshyari’s radar, who criticized Uddhav for ‘undermining religious sensitivities of the people.’

Certain media houses tried to give sadhus lynching at Palghar a communal colour, which was deftly handled by the state government headed by Uddhav Thackeray. And the state was spared from getting sucked into the vortex of communal flare up.

Uddhav was recently under the scanner for his action against the Republic TV anchor Arnab Goswami and actress Kangana Ranaut’s property demolition in Mumbai. Goswami was incarcerated in a suicide abetment case.

Uddhav overstepped his brief by curtailing CBI’s power in the state. In a direct confrontation with the centre, the state withdrew the general consent given to the CBI. Now, the CBI will need prior consent of the state government before proceeding on any case. The decision came in the backdrop of alleged misuse of investigating agencies like CBI, ED, etc, by the central government. Besides Maharashtra, two other non-BJP ruled states — West Bengal and Rajasthan have curbed the unfettered power of the central investigating agency in their states.

Covid-19 has claimed over 47,000 lives in the state as the active cases borders on around 18 lakh figure. The economy is in utterly bad shape; inflation and unemployment are the twin factors that will determine the survival of this government. Much depends on how it tackles the pandemic Covid 19, which has crippled the state.