Dharmendra Jore: Will awkward Opposition get its act together in time?
By managing to ensure that its candidate Ram Nath Kovind pulled off a resounding win, the BJP is on a high, while its arch-rival Sena and Oppn parties seem all over the place
BJP's 'unofficial' bench strength in the Maharashtra legislative assembly seems adequate for stabilising its government, which faces a crucial monsoon session from today.
The session won't be as crucial, not because we don't see any adverse political situation arising for the BJP, but because a divided Opposition will be put to test at a time the government itself is going through a difficult phase in terms of dealing with several issues that need huge finances and effective machinery to implement relief measures and taking policy matters to the ground level.
Game, set, match, BJP
Once in minority, the Devendra Fadnavis government got a much-needed boost from the Shiv Sena in December 2014, but the extension of support has proved to be a great cause of annoyance for the bigger ruling party, which repeatedly tries to give it back to the Sena. And the BJP has done it yet again, this time through the presidential poll. The monsoon session will surely be under the spell of factors that went BJP's way.
President-elect Ram Nath Kovind got 208 votes, of which 63 were from the Sena. If these are subtracted from the total, the BJP still has 145 votes, a number sufficient for holding fort even without the Uddhav Thackeray-led party.
The run-up to the presidential election did not offer much action across the country, except for Thackeray's demand for throwing RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat in the ring in exchange for his party's votes. BJP chief Amit Shah's closed-door deliberations during a visit to the Thackeray residence sealed the deal in Kovind's favour.
The real excitement was palpable after the result: the break-up of votes polled by the main candidates - winner Kovind who will take up the top job officially on Tuesday, and Meira Kumar who vindicated politicians who had predicted a cross-voting from the Opposition in favour of the BJP-backed veteran.
Maharashtra didn't prove to be an exception. Though it would be difficult to name the cross-voters, data crunching establishes that at least 12 MLAs from the Congress, NCP and smaller outfits in the Opposition camp ditched Kumar.
Though a floor test, if conducted in the assembly, would have rules different from the presidential poll, in which the parties don't issue a diktat for favouring a particular candidate (called a whip in parliamentary terminology), the BJP has managed to put the Sena under tremendous pressure as well as issue a veiled warning to the Congress and NCP, that many of their MLAs were willing to help out the Fadnavis government.
Invisible helping hands
Garnering of votes, especially the figure of 145, seemed to be a well-thought-out strategy by the BJP. The success has upped the confidence of Fadnavis and his main players, who have a long innings ahead. The government is halfway through its five-year term. Challenges have increased manifold in the past six months, with the Sena playing a villain in every possible issue.
Fadnavis acknowledged the 'extra' support in the presidential poll. "The invisible hands will help us, whenever the situation demands that the government needs to be saved," he said in an interactive event held by a private news channel on Saturday.
The CM hinted that the helping hands existed not only in the Opposition parties, but also in the Sena. "My government is as stable as ever. I have no plans to go to Delhi," he added, putting a full stop to rumours of him getting promoted to national politics. At the same function, Sena's Sanjay Raut vowed that criticism of the Fadnavis government would continue unabated. "It is important to have critics in the family (the BJP-Sena government)," he said.
Divided they stand
Having so many sensitive subjects and issues at hand for launching a potent attack on the government, the Opposition disappointed on Sunday. The NCP refused to be a part of the Congress-led meeting and media meet, and held a separate one to address the media. The NCP has always faced allegations that it plays into BJP's hands when it comes to legislating issues. It had declared support to the BJP for forming the government even before all election results had been out.
It is also said that Congress's Opposition leader in the assembly, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, has been too friendly with the BJP. Patil almost confessed at a public function recently and landed in trouble for saying that the BJP government is much better than the previous Congress-NCP one. He also admitted that he was friends with the CM; hence, his every legislative move will now be under scanner.
We will be keenly watching the next three weeks to see how the game unfolds between the awkward leaders in the Opposition, the angry Shiv Sainiks and the elated swayamsevaks in the BJP.
Dharmendra Jore is political editor, mid-day. He tweets @dharmendrajore. Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
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