It proved to be a deadly duo – Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thackeray today ensured that it was a short-stay government for the BJP in Maharashtra, establishing themselves at least for now as the Super Chanakyas of the protracted political crisis in the state, outwitting Amit Shah, the acknowledged expert in installing BJP governments in states where the mandate is fractured.
Uddhav Thackeray, 57 years old, often considered a political lightweight, is set to take over as Chief Minister, replacing Devendra Fadnavis of the BJP who logged about 80 hours in the office before his alliance with Sharad Pawar’s nephew, Ajit, crashed this afternoon.
Considering the week he’s had, it was natural for Thackeray to be tearful while hugging his son Aaditya in front of a portrait of his father Bal Thackeray, Sena founder, after Fadnavis said at a press conference at 3:30 pm that he was exiting office.
The events unfolded quickly: the Supreme Court ruled with the Congress-Pawar-Sena combine for a floor test for Fadnavis to be held tomorrow; Sharad then met Ajit and persuaded him to ditch Team Fadnavis, making it clear that the bulk of their party’s legislators remain loyal to him and not to Ajit. The message in any case had been delivered last evening when these legislators showed up with Pawar Senior at a five-star hotel where they joined lawmakers of the Congress and the Sena. Ajit, who had announced the party’s support to Fadnavis and accepted the post of Deputy Minister, resigned. Meanwhile, the PM and Amit Shah met in Delhi and then conveyed to Fadnavis that he would have to step down rather than facing a guaranteed defeat in tomorrow’s vote in the legislature.
The political comeback of the year 2019 is undoubtedly that of Sharad Pawar, 79, who will firmly hold the remote control of India’s richest state, warring family baggage notwithstanding.
A roll call of the losers in my opinion includes Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who put his political capital on the line and tweeted support of the Fadnavis and Pawar government minutes after it was sworn in (he also used special powers to enable the end of President’s Rule in Maharashtra without a cabinet meeting); Amit Shah, union Home Minister and BJP President who was outmaneuvered by Pawar; Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari, who seemed to act as a rubber stamp of the centre (one could argue the same for President Ram Nath Kovind).
The BJP brazenly had Devendra Fadnavis sworn in at 7:50 am along with Ajit Pawar on Saturday morning. It appeared the game was up for the non-BJP combine. But Pawar steadily worked with Thackeray to maintain their unlikely alliance and to ensure nephew Ajit returned to do his bidding.