Who is in complete control of Maharashtra’s power reigns is really a childish question to ask now. It is more than evident that Uddhav Thackeray is nothing more than a puppet CM and a rubberstamp, while all the actual power lies with NCP supremo Sharad Pawar. As much as Uddhav has tried to flex his muscles in the three-party alliance, his government has stared at an imminent collapse almost instantly.
Post-2014, the Shiv Sena, while being in an alliance with the Devendra Fadnavis led BJP government, acted as the principal opposition party in the state and opposed every alternate decision of the government. The BJP was definitely irritated, though it has never publicly stated the same. With the Maha Vikas Aghadi, and Sharad Pawar at the helm of affairs, Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena is being made to taste its own medicine now
Shiv Sena’s recent attempted takedown of Sonu Sood has not augured well with both the NCP and the Congress, with both alliance partners snubbing Shiv Sena for its comments on Sood and extending their support to the film actor for his efforts. State Home Minister and senior NCP leader, Anil Deshmukh was quoted as saying, “Actor Sonu Sood has done good work by sending a lot of migrant workers to their homes. I did not hear what Sanjay Raut Sahab said. We will appreciate whoever takes such good initiatives, be it Sonu Sood or anyone else. Several NGOs are working and we have always commended that.”
For anyone who has been following Maharashtra politics since Uddhav Thackeray took oath as Chief Minister, it is a known fact that all was never well in the three-party alliance. The Maha Vikas Aghadi is surviving on borrowed time, the stopwatch of which is in the hands of Sharad Pawar. There have been umpteen instances where Pawar has emerged as the indisputable power-figure in Maharashtra since November last year.
The Shiv Sena is finding opposition primarily from within its alliance now, and Pawar is leading the charge. Late last month, when the Governor of Maharashtra had invited Uddhav to Raj Bhawan, in order to discuss the prevailing situation in the state, the dummy Chief Minister had sent his PA instead. The Governor then called up Sharad Pawar, who next thing we know, was present at Raj Bhawan. This had also led to speculations of Pawar pulling the plug from the alliance.
The NCP has 16 ministers in the state cabinet (the largest share), and is quite literally running the show with the Home and Finance departments under its command. These 16 ministers were summoned by Sharad Pawar in February this year, after Uddhav Thackeray attempted to flex his muscles in front of the NCP, by overriding Pawar on the issue of NPR implementation in the state. Then, he also gave his nod to an NIA investigation into the Bhima Koregaon violence case, much to the dismay of the NCP. Just as Pawar summoned his ministers for a meeting, Thackeray’s political existence slipped into jeopardy.
In January, the NCP had contradicted claims made by the Congress that the Shiv Sena had approached the two parties for an alliance as early as 2014. The NCP said that no such proposal was received by the party in 2014.
On the issue of five percent reservations for Muslims in the state, the Shiv Sena had said that the leaders of the Maha Vikas Aghadi would collectively take a call on the issue and that CM Uddhav Thackeray would be taking appropriate decisions at the appropriate time. However, NCP leader Nawab Malik then went on record to state, “We will come out with an Act to ensure five per cent reservation in government education. The government will definitely take decision on giving reservation (to Muslims).”
More recently, even as the Shiv Sena trained guns on the BJP and accused Railway Minister Piyush Goyal of not cooperating with the state authorities, the NCP came out in wholehearted support of the Modi government. Saying the Centre was under pressure as well, senior NCP leader Praful Patel said, “Their efforts should be respected. We appreciate that they are providing trains so that people can reach home.”
On the issue of CoVID-19 and its tackling in Maharashtra, NCP Chief Sharad Pawar was of the firm opinion that there must be relaxations given to the lockdown in the state, as the lives of millions were more than affected due to the same. However, here too, Uddhav has managed to infuriate Pawar with his contrarian stance.
The kind of behaviour which the Shiv Sena meted out to the BJP post-2014, is now coming back to haunt the erstwhile Hindutva party, in the form of NCP and Sharad Pawar. Pawar is a flexible politician, and can withdraw his support from the government at any time he deems fit. Uddhav Thackeray has much to lose, as a premature fall of his government will directly translate into an obliteration of his remaining political career.