Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray
Has the Shiv Sena lost the plot or agreed to be a partner in crime? Firstly, it thought of having its own 'tainted' industries minister removed from the Devendra Fadnavis cabinet, in which a BJP minister for housing is facing serious corruption charges. Secondly, the Sena changed its mind abruptly to follow what the BJP has been saying all along, to save its heavyweight minister.
The events that unfolded over the last week show that the Sena has compromised on its position and departed from the posturing that the Thackeray-led party has been known for, ever since it joined hands with the BJP in December 2014. The Sena has taken pride in being a fierce critic of the BJP.
It did act as a critic when BJP's Prakash Mehta was accused by the Opposition of corruption, quid pro quo, irregularities and misguiding the CM. Sena's mouthpiece, Saamana, which serves as a prominent basher of the BJP, said in its edit last week, "Mehta's corruption is being exposed in a series of scams. Now we know who gets Mumbai's prime land and who really benefits from the state capital. Nobody thought that the transparent government would get tarnished like this. The people who train their guns at the Sena time and again are now the targets of those guns."
The same edit defended Subhash Desai, saying that the allegations against him were unfounded.
But, when the CM announced on the last day of the monsoon session, that two tainted ministers and a bureaucrat (MSRDC chief) would face inquiries, both Mehta and Desai offered to quit. Both said they didn't want to influence investigators by continuing in their respective offices.
Who trapped whom?
Now the question is who got trapped in the episode that the Opposition tried to carry to right up to resignations. Did Thackeray net Fadnavis or vice versa? Or, are the two playing as a team?
Situations with answers to the above questions have come and gone many times in the past three years. The result depended on the given situation. But, the cumulative result, however, is that the two played as a team even as others in the rank and file continued to fight over serious and non-serious issues.
In the Mehta-Desai case, it is popularly understood that Fadnavis didn't accept Desai's resignation because it would lead to Mehta's ouster. But, then, consider that when the BJP had made it clear that Mehta won't quit, why would the Sena chief ask Desai to hand over his resignation to the CM? Like the BJP, the Sena should have said that Desai would stay in office because the charges against him were baseless (like the party said in its mouthpiece).
Surprisingly, the Sena chief did say it, but only after the CM had sent Desai back without accepting his papers.
Doesn't the turn of events look scripted? Had Thackeray really wanted to come out clean, stand higher in the morality ranking and show the BJP its place, he shouldn't have gone by the CM's decision. He should have sent Desai to work for the party, as was his wish, and forced the CM to reshuffle his Cabinet with Thackeray-approved Sena faces coming in.
Some realisation this
Thackeray realised, after having a talk with the CM (he said so to the media), that today's politics had stooped very low, and asking for ministers' resignation in baseless allegations had become the norm. He said people proven corrupt in the Congress and NCP had no face left to talk against corruption, because they were knee deep in the muck, and feared action from the BJP-Sena government.
So, will it be wrong to expect something from Thackeray and his prompter in the face of their observation? Shouldn't the government prove itself by finishing the never-ending investigations in the scams of the Congress-NCP regime and bring the guilty to book?
And, yes, will the government be as serious in the Mehta-Desai cases as in the probe against BJP senior leader Eknath Khadse?
Dharmendra Jore is political editor, mid-day. He tweets @dharmendrajore. Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
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