By Sushil Kutty
After the three-pronged Maha Vikas Aghadi government, it’s the turn of the ‘Double-engine’ Shinde-Fadnavis regime to rule Maharashtra. The Opposition called the new alliance ‘Maha Vinaash Aghadi’, and as if approving the nomenclature, within a couple of hours of Eknath Shinde and Devendra Fadnavis taking the oath for Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister respectively, the Shinde cabinet straightaway overturned the MVA government’s decision to put a halt to the metro-carshed construction project in Aarey forest.
It is known to everybody that “Aarey” was Fadnavis’s baby, ratified when Fadnavis was Maharashtra Chief Minister. And he picked it up again. Thursday night Chief Minister Shinde left for Goa to meet with his band of rebel MLAs, leaving Deputy Chief Minister Fadnavis to savour his Aarey victory, which came soon after the major setback to his standing, his own demotion to Deputy Chief Minister. Can’t be karma, right?
That said, these past couple of days, sections of the media have been labelling Uddhav Thackeray “the reluctant Chief Minister” alluding to talk that it was only on the persistent insistence of NCP supremo Sharad Pawar that Uddhav Thackeray agreed to don the Chief Minister’s hat.
Now, Pawar says he has seen the hardly reluctant disappointment on Fadnavis’s well-televised face. And Pawar said that what he saw was reflective of what Fadnavis has been sentenced to, i.e., face and undergo the humiliation he’s in for, under Shinde’s command. But then, Pawar is biased, and would like nothing better than to see Shinde and Fadnavis at each other’s throats.
Which brings back all of us to the question, will Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy Chief Minister DevendraFadnavis be able to get along like the proverbial fire, or will the two be snapping at each other at some point of time in the near future? That said, which of the two holds the real clout?
Only the naïve will not believe that Devendra Fadnavis wouldn’t be calling the shots. Without doubt the decision to give up chief ministership must have been thrust on Fadnavis by none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP President JP Nadda can at best only be conduits, in that order!
Nadda saying that Fadnavis selflessly gave up his ownership of the Chief Minister’s post for the greater good sounded so hollow that you could make a flute out of it. And then within two minutes, there was Amit Shah lauding Fadnavis for the same reason, being selfless! Whosoever said the BJP has robots for leaders wasn’t speaking from hiding.
Chief Minister Eknath Shinde will be forever indebted to Modi and forever cautious he doesn’t stray from the BJP’s trodden path. Shinde is more or less already painted with the BJP brush. And Uddhav Thackeray can rest easy. After naming his rebel group Balasaheb Shiv Sena, Eknath Shinde can no longer linger over Thackeray’s Shiv Sena name, and election symbol.
That doesn’t mean the real Shiv Sena would be free of poaching and perchance even decimation. The annihilation of the Shiv Sena is the climax pictured by the BJP. Allowing Shinde to play big brother to Fadnavis is the BJP’s way of keeping Hindutva under one roof. It could also be another step to ensure Modi becomes a third time Prime Minister.
The hoi polloi, the “janata” in the BJP, should know that everybody in the BJP is cued, tuned and programmed to serve only one man, take forward that one man’s programmes, build around his ambitions a cult — that man, Prime Minister Narendra Modi! By the time Modi is through with India, there wouldn’t be another man standing up to him. And Maharashtra cannot be aloof to Modi’s plans for India.
That said, there is one man who can call Narendra Modi out in the days building up to general elections 2024, the newly crowned Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, who has been given India’s richest state and India’s richest city to handle with care.
Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’s task will be to stand up to pressure, of which there will be plenty coming his way; and that, from one direction only, the BJP! The BJP will do its best to finish off all traces of the Shiv Sena if that is possible, including traces of the Balasaheb Shiv Sena. The work is cut out for Shinde, he must ensure the BJP never forgets that nothing much has changed for Modi’s party in the last two and a half years; that the BJP continues to be dependent on the Shiv Sena, now with ‘Balasaheb’ added to its name for greater effect. (IPA Service)