Uddhav is Maharashtra CM, A Promise to Bal Thackeray Fulfilled
The political realities of Maharashtra are a direct repercussion of souring of relations between Sena & Modi-Shah.
Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam
In a sequence of dramatic events, Shiv Sena supremo Uddhav Thackeray, who has never contested an election, has become Maharashtra's chief minister.
Three days after the chief minister’s chair appeared to have been snatched away from Thackerey by the surprise swearing-in of Devendra Fadnavis, the machinations of Maharshtra politics has enabled him once again to assume the throne.
The 59-year-old will lead the Maha Vikas Aghadi of the Shiv Sena, NCP (Nationalist Congress Party) and Congress alliance who claim to have the support of 162 MLAs.
The Shiv Sena won 56 seats in October’s assembly elections while the NCP and Congress secured 54 and 44 seats respectively. Sena also claims to have the support of 8 independent MLAs.
Hours after the Supreme Court, on Tuesday, ordered a floor test in the Maharashtra assembly by 5:00 pm 27 November, both CM Devendra Fadnavis of the BJP and Deputy CM Ajit Pawar announced that they were stepping down. Their resignations came just three days after they were hurriedly sworn-in by Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari early on Saturday.
Fadnavis said on Tuesday that the BJP did not have the desired numbers to form the government and did not want to engage in horse-trading.
"We will be a responsible opposition," Fadnavis said to a room filled with reporters.
Uddhav Thackeray's Political Ambitions Realised
Uddhav Thackeray, the youngest of Balasaheb Thackeray's three children, was elevated to the position of Shiv Sena's chief when Balasaheb died in November 2012.
The new Sena chief when compared to his father, was soft-spoken and appeared to lack the oratory grip his father commanded over an audience. He, however, made public a promise to his father in the run up to the 2019 Maharashtra assembly polls. "I had promised Balasaheb that I will make a Shiv Sainik chief minister of Maharashtra. I have vowed to fulfill this promise," Uddhav had said.
When Uddhav’s first cousin, Raj Thackeray, broke away from Shiv Sena and formed the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS)in 2006, many speculated if Balasaheb had made a mistake. Raj was widely perceived to posses oratory skills that mirrored the Shiv Sena chief.
However, while Raj’s political fortunes have drastically floundered, Uddhav has proven his detractors wrong. He has held the Shiv Sena together despite being of a demeanor and personality that isn't typical to the way his father carried himself.
With the exception of the 2009 Assembly elections when Shiv Sena MLAs won 45 seats, the Shiv Sena has held its ground to some degree under Uddhav and managed to retain the 16-19 percent vote share in the state.
Under him Shiv Sena’s right-wing Hindutva ideology witnessed a visible toning down. Political commentators felt this was not by intent but because of Uddhav's own personality and way of conducting business.
Uddhav’s Souring Relations With Shah-Modi
Many can say that the political developments of Maharashtra today are a direct repercussion of the souring of relations between the Sena chief and Modi-Shah.
The BJP-Sena power equation fundamentally changed after Modi’s massive victory in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and the subsequent appointment of Amit Shah as the party president.
Shah made it abundantly clear to the Sena that the BJP won’t be willing to play second fiddle in Maharashtra any longer. The party demanded an equal share of seats in the 2014 Assembly elections, which wasn’t acceptable to the Sena.
As a result, the two parties contested separately, which worked to the benefit of the BJP, which won 122 seats compared to the Sena’s 68. But the BJP was forced to take the Sena’s help to form the government. However, the NCP’s offer of support to the BJP reduced Sena’s bargaining power considerably.
The BJP refused to give Sena the deputy chief minister’s position, it denied the party key ministries like home, finance, revenue and public works.
But the slighting of the Sena wasn’t restricted just to power-sharing arrangements.
In an article in Hindustan Times, journalist Sudhir Suryawanshi writes, “Since 2014, the BJP leadership also stopped visiting Matoshree (the Thackeray residence) as much as they did earlier. During Bal Thackeray’s time, no deal with the Sena would happen without a visit to Matoshree. This change hurt Uddhav Thackeray’s ego.”
Between 2014 and 2019, Sena spared no opportunity to criticise the BJP. It hoped that the power equation with the BJP would change if the latter’s ally falls below the half-way mark of 272. But BJP bettered its 2014 tally and secured 303 seats. Sena ended up with just one Cabinet berth, the same as other allies like Akali Dal and LJP, which had far fewer seats.
It became clear to Uddhav Thackeray that Sena would have to fight with the BJP to regain its self-respect.
The Photographer & Author
Uddhav is a graduate from the Bombay-based JJ School of Arts. He is known to be an ace photographer with regular exhibitions of his works.
He has written two books which feature his photography. This is Maharashtra Desh in 2010 and Pahava Vitthal in 2011.
Married to Rashmi, he has two kids with her. The first is Aditya Thackeray who in these 2019 Maharashtra polls emerged as the first Thackeray to contest state elections and the younger son is Tejas, who has a keen interest in wildlife.
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