Thursday’s swearing-in of the Shiv Sena supremo Uddhav Thackeray as the Chief Minister of Maharashtra came as a dramatic anti-climax of the month-long efforts to form the government in the state in the wake of no party getting the majority in the Assembly polls. After staging a midnight coup to form the government with the allegedly written support of the NCP legislators, the BJP failed to get them to physically show their backing for the party. On the other hand, Congress, the NCP and Sena combine paraded all their MLAs in front of the media. Following day the NCP leader Ajit Pawar who had given alleged signatures of support his party’s MLAs to the BJP resigned after Supreme Court called for an immediate floor test. As a result, Devendra Fadnavis had to resign as Chief Minister within 72 hours paving the way for the formation of a coalition government in the state.
The outcome has been embarrassing for the BJP which being the majority party in the state was certain to form the government. The situation took a dramatic turn for the BJP after the ally Sena demanded a 50:50 partnership in the new government. Sena also sought a rotational chief ministership between the parties which the BJP rejected. It is then that the Sena looked for an alternative arrangement with Congress and the NCP.
This for the first time since the BJP’s rise to power at the national level in 2014 that the saffron party has been held back from attaining power or has been thwarted in this attempt by its own partner – and that too an ideological ally. Sena is seen as more Hindutva in its ideological outlook than the BJP. Not so far in the past, Thackeray had called for declaration of India as a Hindu rashtra and demanded imposition of the uniform civil code whereby the Muslim Personal Law which applies exclusively to Muslim community will cease to operate.
But Thackerays haven’t thought twice about parting ways with the BJP for power and even agreed to pledge his allegiance to the secular values in the common minimum programme with Congress and the NCP. The new coalition, although inherently fragile and prone to strain of ideological differences, is nevertheless seen as the first of its kind attempt by the opposition to stand up to an omnipotent BJP under Narendra Modi. This can give some confidence to the country’s battered opposition to start rethinking their strategy to take on the BJP. By sticking together to form the government, Congress, the NCP and Sena have demonstrated that the BJP is not so unassailable after all.