The state is will get a new government on October 19, but it’s a big question who will lead this government. Though just five days are left for the process of filing of nominations, the absence of a final word on alliances Congress-NCP and BJP-Shiv Sena makes the race for the CM’s chair more interesting.
The people of Maharashtra expect a strong leader to be sworn in as chief minister. On this front, there appears to be utter confusion. Currently, there are at least a dozen aspirants for the coveted chair — right from the incumbent, Prithviraj Chavan, to Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray. And there are at least half a dozen from BJP, which is banking on the charisma of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah to deliver results. The BJP’s list offers the number one slot to Devendra Fadnavis, followed by union minister Nitin Gadkari, and leaders Eknath Khadse, Vinod Tawde and Pankaja Munde from the younger lot.
Firstly, howsoever confident the language of the Congress and NCP leaders may be, their body language speaks volumes of their acceptance of defeat. Prominent leaders are busy securing their own seats and top leaders of both parties are not sure how many seats they are going to contest. In this scenario, none of the parties is capable to cross the mark of 144 required to install its own CM.
But, one thing is clear and that is, despite taking the blame for the lacklustre performance of the government, some recent surveys voted for Congress’ Prithviraj Chavan as the best CM candidate. There is a general feeling among majority of the people that he appears clean and firm, but surrounded by non-performers and a tainted lot. The surveys also reveal that people aren’t happy with the Congress, but still they think Chavan can be a better CM.
In any case, perception about Chavan may not help the Congress to come to power, and it was evident during the Lok Sabha elections in which the party managed just 2 seats. Also, the Congress and NCP leaders have always sought to put him on mat on his pace of decision-making. Even NCP chief Sharad Pawar passed stinging comments, calling Chavan out for ‘decision paralysis’. So, Chavan needs no new opponents.
On the other hand, the NCP has not uttered a word on the post of CM as if it has given up its claim for it. The mood within the NCP cadre is contrary to what it was post the 2009 elections. Frenzied supporters of Deputy CM Ajit Pawar, then, would paint his name and put stickers on their vehicles, singing paeans of his dynamic nature and decision- making. They once labelled him as the next CM. But, things changed drastically after November 2010, ever since Prithviraj Chavan slowly forced NCP leaders to swallow their words with his deft moves to clip their wings.
It’s not just seat-sharing but the aspiration to become the CM that has become a contentious issue for the over two-and-half-decade-old alliance between Shiv Sena and BJP. Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray claims he has no dream to be the CM, but will not shy away from responsibility. “Give me an opportunity and I will set things right,” has been his language these days. Such words offer enough space to believe that, precisely for these reasons, the Sena is unwilling to part with more seats for the BJP. Thackeray’s ambition raised a number of eyebrows, as he has never in his life played an active role in government.
Lastly, BJP, the party that looks likely to emerge as the single largest party in the upcoming elections, thinks this is a ‘now or never’ situation to install its nominee as CM. Under the guidance of PM Modi and party boss Amit Shah, the BJP is firm on exacting the maximum number of seats from the Sena. But, the party has the problem of too many choices - five aspirants are yearning for the CM’s chair.
Leaders say that senior leaders consider Devendra Fadnavis numero uno on the list of potential CMs. But, union minister Nitin Gadkari and senior leader Eknath Khadse are also in the race. Another aspirant, Vinod Tawde, has started making all-out efforts to fulfill his dream. This has further galvanised leaders like Khadse to go into PR overdrive. Pankaja Munde Palwe, daughter of the late Gopinath Munde, too, has jumped onto the bandwagon; she recently undertook a yatra to stake her claim to the post. This has made things atypical for a cadre-based party, leading to unhealthy competition.
The writer is Political Editor of mid-day