It has been 50 days since the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government comprising the Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party and Congress assumed power in Maharashtra.
The formation of the government, on 28 November 2019, was a result of a series of dramatic events. First, BJP and Sena’s three-decades old alliance came to an end over differences about the chief minister’s post. As Sena, Congress and NCP inched closer towards ironing out a strategy for government formation, an early morning coup led by Ajit Pawar saw him joining hands with the BJP. But after a brief 48-hour stint, junior Pawar was forced to return, paving way for the MVA alliance to form the government.
After the MVA government was sworn in under Uddhav Thackeray’s leadership, the new alliance had its task cut out. It had to deftly negotiate different ideologies as well as power centres.
Let’s take a look at how the government has performed on different aspects.
Overcoming Ideological Differences
The first challenge was to negotiate the ideological differences between the three parties. With the Shiv Sena being a pro-Hindutva party and Congress and NCP espousing a secular agenda, the process was riddled with complexities.
This ideological differences were overcome with the help of a Common Minimum Programme (CMP), under which all the parties expressed their commitment to the values of secularism as enshrined in the Constitution.
Some pinpricks emerged after Sena voted in favour of the Citizenship Amendment Bill in the Lok Sabha. However, it abstained in the Upper House after Congress expressed its displeasure.
Distribution of Power
Another major obstacle was the distribution of ministerial portfolios. It took over a month for the three parties to decide on all the portfolios. The cabinet was sworn in only at the end of December.
NCP got 10 cabinet berths and four Ministers of State positions. Shiv Sena and Congress were, meanwhile, allocated eight cabinet berths each. Besides this, they were also given two MoS berths.
Nana Patole of the Congress became the Speaker.
Sena had to give many important ministries like home, finance, revenue and public works to its allies. NCP’s Ajit Pawar, who had become deputy CM in the short-lived Fadnavis government, became deputy chief minister again.
CM Uddhav Thackeray’s son Aaditya Thackeray was also sworn in as minister and was given environment and tourism portfolios.
Initiatives Taken by the Maharashtra Govt
1. Maharshtra Government has appointed a panel to extend relief to farmers with loans amounting to Rs 2 lakh, but farmers’ organisations have termed this loan waiver scheme a betrayal. They said that many farmers were left out of the loan waiver scheme because they had debts of more than Rs 2 lakh.
2. Minister of Urban Development Eknath Shinde flagged off second tunnel boring machine (TBM) for underground metro stretch.
3. CM Thackeray has announced an allotment of Rs 20 crore for Raigad - the capital of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.
4. Metro projects will be launched in Nashik, Thane , after they were launched in Pune and Nagpur.
9. Special grant of Rs 100 crore for the development of Pathri (birthplace of Sai Baba) was announced, but a controversy erupted over CM Uddhav’s reported comment calling it Sai Baba's birthplace.
10. CM Uddhav Thackeray announced ‘Shiv Bhojan’ scheme which provides subsidised meal at Rs 10.
11. The Maharashtra government announced that a sum of Rs 24 crore would be granted to the Wadia Hospital, and also directed the BMC to release its share of Rs 22 crore. This has been done so that the Wadia Maternity and Children’s hospital could resume its operations.
12. Maharashtra Tourism Minister Aaditya Thackeray announced that malls, shops, pubs in Mumbai will have the option to remain open 24X7 from 26 January.
BJP’s Decisions Overturned
The Maharashtra government put on hold some key decisions of the previous BJP government.
1. The government put on hold the construction of the controversial Metro shed at Aarey colony. This was only expected given Aaditya Thackeray’s vocal opposition to the felling of trees for the project.
2. The government also put the brakes on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project.
3. Last week, the government announced that it would not implement the Mumbai-Pune hyperloop project.
4. CM Thackeray demanded that the Centre should waive off Maharashtra’s contribution to the central exchequer for two years. He said this would help Maharashtra to clear its debts at once.
5. Maharashtra government canceled stamp duty waiver granted to Nagpur- based Resurgence Foundations, a research institute linked to the RSS.
6. The government said that it may withdraw cases related to the Bhima Koregaon violence.
The new government has had its fair share of controversies, which began with differences over allocation of portfolios. Tensions continued to simmer over Sena’s stand on the CAA. Some issues were resolved. However, controversies kept cropping up every now and then.
For instance, last week Sena MP Sanjay Raut alleged that Former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, met underworld don Karim Lala. This comment caused unease in the alliance. Congress leaders Sanjay Nirupam and Milind Deora demanded an apology from Raut, who was forced to issue a clarification.
Shiv Sena also skipped the Opposition meet which was called by the Congress’ interim chief Sonia Gandhi on 14 January, 2020 on the CAA.
Impact on National Politics
By backing Uddhav Thackeray as chief minister, NCP and Congress have ended up winning over BJP’s largest and oldest ally – Shiv Sena.
With the MVA government taking charge in Maharashtra, India’s richest state and also one of the largest states in terms of area, has slipped out of the hands of the BJP. Nationally, many viewed this development as big achievement for the Opposition.
It is perhaps not mere coincidence that a number of film stars and industrialists began criticising the BJP government at the Centre. The survival of the MVA government in Maharashtra is crucial if the Opposition wants to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the national level.
It’s said that with great power comes great responsibility, and given the recent gains made by the Maha Vikas Aghadi, this holds particularly true.