Hard lessons for BJP as Maharashtra’s political circus ends

After a gap of 20 years, Shiv Sena is back in power in the western Indian state of Maharashtra with its supremo Uddhav Thackeray set to lead a potpourri coalition consisting of Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress poles apart in ideology.

As some leaders of the three- party coalition are set to be sworn in as ministers, they should ask themselves: “Are we eligible to rule the state when people’s mandate had gone to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which is now sitting in the opposition? Is it just to keep the saffron party out because it has become too dominant?”

The parties should answer these questions because they were accusing BJP of poaching their legislators and murdering democracy.

Shiv Sena, BJP’s pre-poll ally, should explain its silence on the so-called promise of chief ministership given by BJP when they were fighting the elections together.

In his campaign speeches, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made it clear that BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis would be sworn in as chief minister of Maharashtra for the second term. Sena should have clarified on the chief minister’s post then.

The regional party became overambitious when its senior partner BJP fell short of majority. BJP rejected Shiv Sena’s demand for chief ministership as the latter was lying to grab the post by hook or crook.

Shiv Sena started threating the BJP and ultimately severed the 30-year-old link with the saffron party. It then aligned with its political foes driven by the lust for power.

The lesson for BJP is to henceforth fight elections alone. Had it done so without surrendering constituencies to Sena candidates in Maharashtra, it could easily have secured the majority. BJP could be hurt by the fact that Shiv Sena won several seats on the strength of the good governance by Modi at the national level and Fadnavis at the state level.

New laws have to be enacted disqualifying all legislators of a party — in this case Sena — which ditches its pre-poll alliance partner to grab plum posts. Unless such parties are punished, democracy will take a backseat and voters will lose faith in election.

Shiv Sena’s selfish outlook denied BJP the opportunity to rule the state for the second term. When the governor invited BJP first to form a government, Fadnavis said he does not have the numbers.

He had to say that again on Tuesday when Ajit Pawar, his newfound ally of the breakaway NCP faction, quit as Deputy Chief Minister even before taking office and returned to the party led by his uncle and niece.   

NCP supremo Sharad Pawar is a wily politician and, taking a wild guess, it may be that Ajit extended his support to BJP only to force Fadnavis to leave the high moral ground and take oath as chief minister last weekend.