As the calendar changed this week, a challenging year looms ahead on the Maharashtra political front, promising to be both bewitching and bouncy.
On one side is the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) of Shiv Sena-Nationalist Congress Party-Congress, now puffing and pacing to the half-way mark of its rocky term, and on the other, a belligerent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), fervently hoping to yank off the rug anytime.
The first of the challenges will emerge during the upcoming elections to various major municipal corporations, in the current quarter (unless postponed owing to the pending OBC quotas issue), which promise to be a mini-referendum among the urbanites on both the MVA and the BJP.
The stakes are high for the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), the country’s biggest and richest civic body, lorded over by Shiv Sena for nearly three decades now, the last few years solo.
The hanging OBCs quotas are becoming tricky – everybody wants it, nobody wants deferment of any elections, yet there appears no quickie, magical, universally acceptable, solution in sight to the vexed problem, not to mention the Maratha reservations, Muslims and other communities seeking a share in the pie.
While the MVA’s performance on the Covid-19 front has not been found wanting, other infrastructure, developmental and political issues may prove tricky, given the changed dynamics at the ground-level.
Bedevilled by the BJP since the day he took the oath, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray is currently down with spinal issues but not out, though MVA partners long for his presence for the past couple of months.
Adding to the Opposition fire is the fuel of several central investigative agencies, some Bollywood actors and others, who have apparently ‘allied’ with the BJP to corner and crush the MVA government deploying an Australian-style ‘full press’ strategem.
The MVA is learning to hit back fast – as was evident in the war between NCP Minister and Nawab Malik, and the former Narcotics Control Bureau Mumbai Zonal Director Sameer Wankhede – which left the agency’s reputation in tatters.
In fact, the needles of suspicion are also pointing at other ravaging Central agencies whose best-loved targets are Sena-NCP politicians, unnerving the entire MVA as the BJP watches the puppet show gleefully.
The MVA also ensured the arrest of its bete-noire, Union MSME Minister Narayan Rane last year for the infamous ‘slap-slur’ against Thackeray, and this year his son and BJP MLA Nitesh Rane is panting from pillar to post to evade arrest in an ‘attempt to murder’ case.
A long-pending grouse of the MVA is the 15-month-long ‘delay’ in Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari clearing the list of 12 MLCs, submitted to Raj Bhavan in November 2020.
Political sources hint that it may remain an uphill task for the MVA as the gubernatorial nod to the list could upset the current numbers in the state Legislative Council, with significant impact on the upcoming biennial elections to 3 Rajya Sabha seats and around 16 Legislative Council seats this year.
Of the 3 RS seats, two are held by BJP (Dr Vikas Mahatme and Dr Vinay Sahasrabuddhe) and one is occupied by Congress’ P. Chidambaram, besides one nominated seat held by BJP’s Sambhajiraje Chhatrapati.
On the economic front, the MVA leaders still bay for outstanding dues on Goods & Services Tax (GST), though the state registers are jingling by attracting massive domestic and foreign investments into various sectors, improved job creations and Mumbai could see at least two more Metros functional in the first quarter and a part of the coastal highway, too.
Without doubt, in 2022, the MVA will have to keep its flock close and perform speedily to save its soul from the merciless BJP & Co., menacingly breathing down its neck.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org)