Maharashtra: A year on, Uddhav Thackeray firmly in the saddle
Mumbai, Nov 27: As Maharashtra's Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) ministry turns a year-old on Saturday, political observers say Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray is firmly in the saddle despite continued attempts by the BJP to unseat him.
That the MVA government, comprising Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress completed a year in office despite frequent murmurs of lack of coordination among theruling alliance partners is being attributed to the rapport between Thackeray (60) and NCP patriarch Sharad Pawar.
An avid photographer, the otherwise affable and mild- mannered Thackeray displayed combative traits of his father while dealing with the BJP over the issue of rotational chief ministership after the Assembly poll results were announced in October 2019.
In poll rallies, Uddhav repeatedly voiced his resolve to fulfil Bal Thackeray's dream of making a Shiv Sainik the chief minister, and ended up donning the mantle himself. He was sworn in as the chief minister on November 28 last year after a month-long political drama, which included a brief spell of President'srule and an 80-hour-long Devendra Fadnavis-Ajit Pawar government.
The coronavirus pandemic and natural disasters like the Nisarga cyclone which hit coastal Konkan,floods in east Vidarbha, parts of Marathwada and western Maharashtra kept the 'Thackeray Sarkar' on its toes since March. Apart from criticism that the chief minister operates from home, there has been no other charge against Thackeray. Attempts to implicate him and son Aaditya, who is a minister in the state government, inthe Sushant Singh Rajput case proved futile, the observers say. A Rs 38,000 crore loan waiver for 40 lakh farmers and scrapping of the Aarey metro car shed and shifting it to Kanjurmarg are some of the major decisions of the MVA regime.
The Nagpur-Mumbai Samruddhi corridor, a pet project of Thackeray's predecessor Devendra Fadnavis, was named after Bal Thackeray,while a probe was ordered in the Jalyukt Shivar water conservation scheme, another pet project of the BJP leader, after the CAG slammed the way it was implementated. A senior cabinet minister said Uddhav Thackeray believes in taking everyone along and doesn't impose himself. "He believes incollective decision-making," the minister said.
The year saw Maharashtra Governor B S Koshyari coming under fire from the ruling alliance leaders who accused him of pandering to the interests of the opposition BJP. Koshyari's letter on delay in reopening places of religious worship and his questioning the chief minister over Hindutva prompted a swift retort by Thackeray and prominent MVA leaders, including Pawar. The Thackeray-led government has managed to sail steady despite rough weather, said an observer.
The lynching of two sadhus in Palghar, Sushant Singh Rajput death case dominated the political headlines. Fadnavis and other BJP leaders targeted Thackeray and Aaditya and there were attempts to drag Aadityas name in the Sushant case. Thackeray also came in for flak from BJP over the arrest of TV journalist Arnab Goswami in a suicide abetment case and also for the Shiv Sena-led BMC's partial demolition of actress Kangana Ranaut's property in suburban Bandra.
In October, Maharashtra government withdrew the general consent given to the Central Bureau of Investigation, curtailing its powers in the state. Following the decision, the CBI will have to approach the state government on case-to-case basis seeking permission to conduct probe. Maharashtra is the third state after West Bengal and Rajasthan to take such an action. The move came a day after the CBI registered an FIR in the TRP scam case. The Mumbai police had registered the case earlier but the CBI took over the probe based on an FIR filed in Uttar Pradesh.
The COVID-19 cases in Maharashtra are nearing the 18- lakh mark and have claimed around 47000 lives. Amid the pandemic, there was speculation over the stability of the MVA government, with some in the opposition BJP dubbing it a tottering three-wheeler. Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut says there is no threat to the MVA government and it would collapse only if either of the three parties pull out.
Despite this overt show of unity, there is frustration in Congress over being relegated to a minor partner in the MVA alliance. The party has been complaining about its ministers not getting funds to implement policies in departments headed by them. Political observers feel the recent ED action against Shiv Sena MLA Pratap Sarnaik, who was at the forefront in seeking action against Arnab Goswami in the 2018 abetment to suicide case, is an indication that the Thackeray-led regime will continue to face such 'speed bumps' in its quest for a smooth ride.