Devendra Fadnavis & Ajit Pawar Resign: What Next in Maharashtra?

NCP insiders say that Ajit dada is an “emotional person” and will “listen to” Sharad Pawar eventually.

4 min read

The political drama in Maharashtra entered its final act with Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar resigning as chief minister and deputy chief minister, respectively, on Tuesday, 26 November. Their exit was as dramatic as their hasty, almost clandestine swearing-in at Mumbai’s Raj Bhawan barely 80 hours earlier.

Now there are a few more steps remaining before Maharashtra finally gets a government. So here’s what may happen next for the various actors involved.

All Set for Sena-NCP-Congress Govt

With Fadnavis resigning even without taking a floor test, the decks have been cleared for the formation of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government. The alliance will have to select a chief minister and stake claim to form the government. According to Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut, party supremo Uddhav Thackeray will be the MVA’s CM.

The governor will then give the alliance a date by which it has to prove its majority.

The alliance claims to have the support of 162 MLAs, who had been paraded in a show of strength at Mumbai’s Grand Hyatt on Monday. Here are the likely numbers:

  • Shiv Sena: 56
  • NCP: 51
  • Congress: 44
  • Samajwadi Party: 2
  • Swabhiman Paksha: 1
  • CPM: 1
  • Independents: 7

The alliance claimed on Tuesday that the tally of MLAs supporting the alliance has increased since then.

If Uddhav does take up the responsibility, he would be the first Thackeray to occupy public office.

He will also have to choose whether he wants to be elected through the Legislative Assembly or Legislative Council. The Sena MLA from Mahim has already offered to vacate his seat.

Power-Sharing Issues

The three parties had almost finalised their deal on the evening of Friday, 22 November, but the sudden swearing-in of Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar on Saturday derailed their plans.

The positive consequence of this for the Sena, NCP and Congress was that what was seen as a hastily stitched and opportunistic alliance, was given an ideological glue – of “opposing Centre’s interference in Maharashtra.”

This may smoothen the path of government formation for the time being but distribution of portfolios won’t be easy, especially as three big parties have to be accommodated. A lot of ministerial aspirants will have to be accommodated as chairpersons of government-affiliated bodies.

But courtesy the lengthy discussions between the three parties, at least the agenda of governance – bringing the ideologically opposite parties together – is more or less ready and the Common Minimum Programme may be finalised soon.

Top priority for the government is likely to be a relief package for Maharashtra’s distressed farmers.

What Next for Fadnavis?

Despite a high number of farmer suicides, a few alleged scams, Maratha protests and Bhima Koregaon violence having taken place in his tenure, Fadnavis enjoyed a relatively clean public image.

This image took a beating when he clandestinely took oath on Saturday morning, that too with a deputy like Ajit Pawar, a leader whom he had promised to put in jail.

In the press conference announcing his resignation, Fadnavis took the entire blame for the fiasco, absolving the central leadership of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah.

This isn’t entirely fair as the entire decision to take Ajit Pawar’s help to form the government was as much Modi and Shah’s as Fadnavis’, if not more.

But by insulating the central leadership, Fadnavis appears to be trying to keep his own political fortunes alive, especially as he has more than his fair share of detractors within the BJP. One of them is Nitin Gadkari, his one-time mentor. Gadkari’s rivals promoted Fadnavis as a counterweight to his fellow Nagpurkar. Then there are leaders like Pankaja Munde, Eknath Khadse and Vinod Tawde, whom Fadnavis actively sidelined.

However, the former CM is a clever politician and may retain influence in the party. It remains to be seen whether he is made the Leader of the Opposition in the Maharashtra Assembly or if the party leadership chooses someone like Chandrakant Patil.

What Next for Ajit Pawar?

With his attempted “coup” in the NCP having failed, the future is uncertain for Ajit Pawar. At least on two occasions in the past, Ajit Pawar has had disagreements with Sharad Pawar only to be mollified and brought back by the latter.

NCP insiders say that Ajit dada is an “emotional person” and will “listen to” Sharad Pawar eventually.

But this time the extent of rebellion was a bit more serious than the past.

“The doors should remain open for him,” said NCP MLA Dhananjay Munde, a key player in the entire drama.

What Does This Mean Nationally?

The formation of a Sena-NCP-Congress alliance government in Maharashtra will have serious ramifications nationally. This gives the parties control of India’s richest state and could fundamentally change the nature of the Opposition at the national level. There are a number of dimensions to this:

  • Having outwitted Modi and Shah in Maharashtra, NCP chief Sharad Pawar may now emerge as a key fulcrum of the national Opposition.
  • With the Opposition now controlling India’s financial capital Mumbai, corporate India would now be forced to deal with them. Till now, this section was said to be lopsided in its support for BJP.
  • The Sena-NCP-Congress alliance, also marks the clear emergences of a Centre-Right Opposition to the BJP.
  • It may weaken the case of the Left wing within the Congress and strengthen the hands of Old Guard leaders like Ahmed Patel, who played a key role in sealing the deal with Sena.

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