Saturday, July 13, 2024

Uddhav BJP’s primary target; Sena UBT drums up ‘khokha govt’ charge

Sniffing a political ‘kill’, Maharashtra’s political hounds are busy sharpening their nails and claws for the upcoming battles at the hustings – first the Lok Sabha elections and then the Assembly polls in the state – which promise to be a cacophonic affair in the first and second half of 2024.

Since 2019, the state saw two Chief Ministers, 2 Deputy CMs, and possibly two Leaders of Opposition. The Congress which was the fourth-largest party, has now become the second-largest (after the Bharatiya Janata Party) keeping its flock intact.

Currently, the state’s political armies are divided into two distinct groups, comprising two breakaway factions of the erstwhile old parties, and smaller parties or independents clinging to either side.

On one side is the ruling ally Bharatiya Janata Party with the breakaway factions, Shiv Sena (CM Eknath Shinde) and Nationalist Congress Party (Ajit Pawar).

In the Opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi is the Congress, with the left-over groups, Shiv Sena-UBT (ex-CM Uddhav Thackeray) and NCP (Sharad Pawar).

In barely four years, the state – renowned for progress and stability but alien to ‘ayaram-gayaram’ style politics – has witnessed an unprecedented four different political upheavals that have sullied the social-political atmosphere.

On November. 23, 2019, the then governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari administered the oath of office in a dawn ceremony to a two-man regime of BJP Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Deputy CM Ajit Pawar, which crashed in barely 80 hours.

Five days later, Shiv Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray was sworn-in as the new CM and a month later, Ajit Pawar joined the MVA government as Deputy CM.

Almost 31 months later in June 2022, the Shiv Sena split vertically and a rebel leader Eknath Shinde became the CM with the BJP’s Fadnavis as the Deputy CM.

Thirteen months later in July 2023, Ajit Pawar split the NCP (founded by his uncle Sharad Pawar) in its silver jubilee year, and hopped onto the Shinde-Fadnavis administration as a second Deputy CM – holding the post a record 5th time – this time sworn-in by a new Governor, Ramesh Bais.

All through these machinations, the state’s bewildered people remained mute spectators, with most wondering where exactly their 2019 mandate has disappeared!

As far as the BJP is concerned, it had sounded the poll bugle way back in November 2019 when Thackeray severed his alliance and jumped into the MVA, and till date he remains a ‘culprit’.

This month, the BJP has formally launched its pre-poll campaigns with various party workers and leaders’ conclaves where the MVA in general and Thackeray in particular remain the favourite whipping boys.

The BJP ammunition comprises Thackeray’s ‘opportunistic betrayal’, discarding the late Balasaheb Thackeray’s ‘Hindutva’, a ‘WFH ineffective CM’, ‘backstabbing BJP’, allying with the ‘corrupt Congress-NCP’ in the MVA, the fastest-working regime the state has even seen, a ‘triple-engine’ government working at ‘bullet train speeds’ for progress, et al.

The MVA’s armoury includes ‘khokha govt’ (slang for Crores of Rupees), a ‘power-hungry’ BJP unabashedly misusing central probe agencies to make-or-break governments, political parties and their leaders, or mundane affairs like ‘skyrocketing inflation’, ‘record unemployment’, farmers’ distress, women-youth issues, worsening crime situation in the state, health, education, etc.

A supremely confident BJP state president Chandrashekhar claimed that the party and its allies will bag 43-45 of the state’s 48 Lok Sabha seats, and of the 288-member Assembly, it would win 152 seats while another 50-odd will be cornered by allies Shiv Sena-NCP (Ajit Pawar) – both feeling edgy but keeping mum so far.

Alleging that the state is paralysed for the past 13 months, state Congress president Nana Patole has demanded President’s Rule, and the MVA allies expect to bounce back to power. They warn that the people of state will teach a ‘befitting lesson’ to the ruling alliance for its unscrupulous politics, and the BJP will ‘politically erase both Shinde-Ajit Pawar’.

A lone wolf in the form of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) president Raj Thackeray — considered the most confused politician of south Mumbai – has been struggling to draw attention and grab a foothold in state politics.

Not attached to either side, the estranged cousin of Uddhav Thackeray is perched on a fence — certainly unsure where to jump to become relevant.

Hovering on the fringes, he occasionally snaps, with issues like targeting north-Indians (2008), first cosying up to the BJP on an off, an entertaining anti-BJP expose campaign ‘laav re te video’ (play that video), promptly summoned for a sobering grilling by the Enforcement Directorate (August 2019), bobbing up with a crusade against ‘azan’ in mosque loudspeakers (2022), and an ‘Eureka’ moment while discovering an alleged illegal ‘dargah’ in the Mahim bay (March 2023).

In a nutshell, the state’s disgusted electorate is equally eagerly awaiting the polls, mentally sharpening the knives and swords, quietly noting and ticking the loyalists / the turncoats, with a fervent hope that their valuable vote reaches the desired/intended destination via the EVMs.

(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at q.najmi@ians.in)

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