Last week, Shiv Sena MP, the outspoken Sanjay Raut contemptuously dismissed yet another statement by Bharatiya Janata Party state President Chandrakant Patil predicting the downfall of the 2-year-old Maha Vikas Aghadi government, saying he has said it “at least 28 times before.”
Another senior Sena leader, Dr Raghunath Kuchik – accorded MoS status – said all the BJP leaders are crying over spilt milk, how “the Sena betrayed BJP” at least five times daily – or over 3,500 times in the past two years after the MVA government with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray took office on November 28, 2019.
“This must be some sort of a world-record In May 1996, the late PM Atal Behari Vajpayee said – in a dignified manner – how he felt disappointed only once and gave up office, but never uttered it again,” Kuchik pointed out.
A couple of days ago, when Union MSME Minister Narayan Rane acted soothsayer claiming the BJP will form the government in March, the usually stern Nationalist Congress Party state President and Minister Jayant Patil broke into a grin and asked why “such a long time-limit”.
Congress state President Nana Patole reacted sarcastically saying how “the BJP’s never-ending forecasts of the MVA fall are perpetually proving wrong.”
As the MVA celebrates its second anniversary on November 28 it is conscious of the hawkish Opposition counting the days, weeks or months for the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government’s collapse.
For, the Opposition is not limited to the belligerent BJP in the state and Centre alone — there’s a motley collection of various central agencies, several Bollywood personalities, some industrialists, a few social influencers and even the friendly neighbourhood Raj Bhavan with which there have been infrequent ‘letter wars’ – not exactly the soulful ingredients for a smooth sail!
Barely had the MVA emerged unscathed from the ghost of the late actor Sushant Singh Rajput on its first birthday last November (2020), it was haunted by others in the form of the abandoned SUV with 20 gelatin sticks and a threat note near the home of industrialist Mukesh Ambani in February, followed by the murder of the vehicle owner Mansukh Hiran.
This kicked off a series of political developments that rocked the 3-party government, the unceremonious transfer of the then Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh, his letter bomb hurling allegations of extortion against the then home minister Anil Deshmukh, who was forced to quit and was nabbed by the Enforcement Directorate, and now Singh himself facing corruption charges.
Besides Deshmukh, minister Sanjay Rathod forfeited his post. At least another half-a-dozen Sena-NCP ministers or senior leaders like Hasan Mushrif, Anil Parab, Eknath Khadse, MP Bhavana Gawli, ex-MP Anandrao Adsul, Sanjay Raut’s kin and the family of Deputy CM Ajit Pawar are under the scanner of the central agencies, plus a dozen more ‘potential’ future targets, as BJP leaders watch gleefully.
Despite the “betrayal, downfall” cacophony all around, Thackeray continued to make waves with his handling of the Covid-19 situation, the state earned laurels from the Centre and abroad, it continued to attract investments and — despite occasional hiccups – the 3-partners maintained camaraderie.
At one point, a bemused Thackeray shot back at the BJP, saying “the MVA will not only complete five years, but is here to stay for 25 years”.
NCP’s Malik further rattled the Opposition saying that many of the erstwhile defectors from the Sena-NCP-Congress to the BJP would make a ‘ghar-wapsi’ and return to the parental fold soon.
After the Narcotics Control Bureau’s raids on the Cordelia cruise ship on October 2, Malik became the face of the MVA’s blitzkrieg against the central agencies with his sting(ing) operations against the NCB Zonal Director Sameer Wankhede.
As the luxury ship swoop practically lost credibility, Wankhede came under pressure with Malik’s exposes on his alleged fake caste certificate and other fraudulent documents, and the Bombay High Court also frowning at the raids and the NCB’s intentions. It also said the Minister’s charges were not ‘totally false’.
The MVA struggles on other fronts too, like the pending GST dues from the Centre, the elusive promised aid for natural calamities that befell the state in the past two years, the Kanjurmarg land for the Mumbai Metro car shed.
After straddling multiple crises over the past 24 months, another Big Test is coming up in early 2022 for both the MVA and the BJP — the elections to some big civic bodies like Mumbai, Thane, Navi Mumbai, Vasai-Virar, Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Nashik, Aurangabad, Solapur, Amravati and Nagpur.
Though the Sena-NCP are firm on a pre-poll alliance, the Congress state and Mumbai leaders keep thumping chests like Tarzan and sing the ‘Ekla Chalo’ (Go Alone) tune, dismaying the other two allies but sounding sweet music to the BJP.
Senior ruling alliance leaders are aware that these are rough times calling for tough decisions to prevent a mass exodus or even a rebellion in their ranks — as witnessed recently in Panvel with many Congressmen joining the NCP — particularly with the BJP fox lurking menacingly around the MVA flock.
Perturbed by its unsuccessful toppling games, the BJP is vying for big wins in the civic polls to re-sharpen its sword to eject what it calls the ‘Maha Vinaash Aghadi’ regime, though privately many leaders admit it’s a futile exercise.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)