The idea behind the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress combine is to keep Maharashtra first and India’s Constitution above all else. The parties have come together to ensure that the State gets the governance it deserves
Politics is the art of making possible what was once seemingly impossible. This was proved to be true in Maharashtra as the country witnessed how the BJP’s State unit, in its bid to hold on to power, was trying to break every rule in the book to form a Government. These rule-breakers were supported by certain sections of the media, who, instead of calling them out, were lauding such unconstitutional moves as “masterstrokes” and part of Chanakya Neeti (Chanakya’s strategies).
The coming together of the Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress in an alliance is more to keep the State first and India’s Constitution above all else. Those who continue to raise doubts must realise that what was witnessed in this Maharashtra battle after the results were declared had little to do with political twists and turns or ideology. It had more to do with the State, the country and its very foundation, democracy. The way the BJP Government was secretly sworn in, early in the morning, without even cross-checking the party’s claims of having the majority, raises questions on the role of various individuals who are relied upon to uphold the institutions entrusted to them.
It was surprising to learn how the Governor worked all through the night to install a Government without checking if the Chief Minister he was swearing in actually had the numbers that he was claiming to have. Those who said in his defence that it isn’t the Governor’s job to check, should first explain how does it become a Governor’s job to clandestinely swear in a party while refusing to give time to others? It is time to seriously re-examine the Governor’s function in a democracy.
While Governors doing the bidding of the Central Government has become a norm now, the bigger shock was the reduction of the President’s office to the status of a “rubber stamp.” For the President to apply the rarely-used Rule 12 to do away with the need for the Union Cabinet’s approval to revoke the President’s Rule, was shocking. So hurriedly was this done that the notification for the same was uploaded without the President’s signature!
The country has seen similar cases in Arunachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa, Meghalaya and Karnataka. This trend of every non-BJP Government that has been formed, having to fight for their right to govern by knocking on the Supreme Court’s (SC’s) doors, needs to be discouraged.
What this episode has shown to the nation is that whenever our democracy has faced a simple test, all the institutions entrusted with the task of upholding the principles of democracy crumbled and individuals stood compromised. It took the SC to step in and call the bluff of those who played a lead role in subverting the Constitution, leading to the resignation of Devendra Fadnavis from the Chief Minister’s post.
At a time, when the election results had all the political parties precariously perched, it took the Shiv Sena president and now Maharashtra Chief Minister, Uddhav Thackeray, to call out the supposed invincibility of the BJP in shoring up numbers to form a Government — the saam, daam, dand, bhed (explain, bribe, punish, coerce) method the BJP proudly proclaims. After the BJP declared its inability to form the Government when first invited by the Governor, the Shiv Sena moved deftly and discussed possibilities for a coalition with the NCP and the Congress.
Keeping all differences aside, it took the political will of NCP and Congress party presidents, namely Sharad Pawar and Sonia Gandhi, to take a historic leap of faith and forge an alliance that would be an alternative to the BJP Government in the State.
The other argument of different ideologies coming together to form a Government is also inherently incorrect because the three parties are committed to working on the basis of the Common Minimum Programme they have formulated. Committed to the people of the State, it keeps the people of Maharashtra before all else. It is a framework that has kept the development of Maharashtra at the forefront with no ambiguities whatsoever. The Government’s top priority would be to ensure that farmers are looked after, the youth have job opportunities, women have safety, besides education, health and homes for all.
This coming together of the alliance is also a reality check for all those who have been building a political narrative to end all parties opposed to them, that will later be followed by decimating their alliance partners.
This attempt to become a hegemonic political party has been thwarted by India and its people. Time and time again, our democracy has shown that there can never be space for single-party dominance and it is important to ensure that dissent and disagreement prevail. This alliance will not just see the dynamics of the power structure change in the State but will also see a tectonic shift in the political dynamics of India. The coming together of the Shiv Sena and the Congress to run a Government in a coalition may be a first. However, the history of cooperation between the two sides is well-documented. The Shiv Sena had supported the Congress’ Murli Deora for mayoral elections and also backed the UPA’s presidential candidates Pranab Mukherjee and Pratibha Patil.
The bond between former Congress Chief Minister AR Antulay and the late Balasaheb Thackeray was well-known and Antulay had once referred to himself as a Shiv Sainik. Balasaheb held Indira Gandhi in high regard. Shiv Sena had also hailed the introduction of computers in the country which was vehemently opposed by the BJP.
Shiv Sena was also very vocal on the demonetisation move, the agrarian crisis and some aspects of the Goods and Services Tax (GST). While being in alliance with the BJP at the Centre, it did find common ground with the Congress. For the Sena, their politics has been about putting the people first.
Though the NCP and the Shiv Sena have never worked together politically but the presidents of both the parties and their families have been very close friends. In 2006, when Supriya Sule was to contest for the Rajya Sabha, Balasaheb chose not to field any candidate against her.
When Uddhav Thackeray was to be sworn in, Supriya in a tweet had acknowledged how she would miss both Balasaheb and Meenatai Thackeray on the momentous day. The two most-important regional players have come together to ensure that Maharashtra gets the governance that it deserves.
The party that would truly need to introspect its strategy is the BJP. While Prime Minister Narendra Modi continues to enjoy immense popularity amongst the people, his party’s unholy greed for power is not appreciated. Devendra Fadnavis pulling in the PM’s office in his power-grab bid was unfortunate and misleading. Fadnavis leading the walk-out of the BJP from the Assembly on the day of the trust vote, after repeatedly rushing into the Well of the House and sloganeering, was in direct contrast to what Modi had said on Constitution Day.
The BJP’s conduct in Maharashtra after elections has been arrogant and brazen. Some grace and humility now as an Opposition party in the State would help them regain their lost credibility. When today the BJP accuses others of lacking numbers and merit, it has to look back on its history of forming Governments in other States despite not having the numbers.
As the BJP sees its hold shrink in various States from 71 per cent in December 2017 to 40 per cent in November 2019, it surely needs to introspect its political manoeuvres that are coming at the expense of diluting all it stood for and losing its long-standing allies.
Those who say that the alliance will not last are yet again making a “masterstroke” of a mistake. Those who rush to say this alliance will go the Karnataka way barely understand the ground realities of the State. In Karnataka, the alliance was not what the local leaders wanted. However, in Maharashtra it was the winning MLAs of all the three parties, barring a few, who overwhelmingly wanted the parties to come together and are committed to working towards a stable Government.
This alliance has to last as it paves the way for the tenets of democracy to thrive and to retain the balance of power. The majority vote on the floor of the House has shown the stability of this Government; the CM’s decisions on Aarey Metro Car shed and his speeches in the Assembly have shown this alliance Government’s intent. It is going to be a Government of the people, by the people and for the people of Maharashtra.
(The writer is a senior Shiv Sena leader)