Some takeaways from Delhi, Maharashtra

09 June,2024 06:51 AM IST |  Mumbai  |  Dharmendra Jore

Coalition government returns at the Centre, its impact likely to be seen in states, including Maharashtra

Narendra Modi. Pic/AFP

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Much has been said about the return of PM Narendra Modi. Henceforth, it is all about his way forward in circumstances he had never faced in his entire political career. Modi will be running a coalition government for the first time. Political assessors and rivals have recalibrated their instruments to observe the New Modi. They will be watching the PM's management closely, finding faults and provoking the allies to go on the brink. The country had forgotten about the coalition governments at the Centre since Modi's advent in 2014. Ten years later, the days of the previous machinations are back with all eyes on the stability of the government. The PM's detractors may be wishing to see a moment that turns Modi 3.0 into Modi.0h!

Testing time

PM Modi's first test was the formation of the council of ministers, with participation from allies, including even those who didn't fight the elections. By the time this piece was sent out, the PMO was in the process of ensuring a berth or two for the NDA partners, except for the Nationalist Congress Party (Ajit Pawar) that rejected an offer of a junior minister's position. The Ajit Pawar-led party demanded a Cabinet berth for Praful Patel. It didn't want Patel demoted because he was a Cabinet-rank minister in the past. Even the offer for a MoS with independent charge didn't work. DCM Devendra Fadnavis, who discussed the offer with NCP, said that the norms could not be changed for one partner when there were many others in the NDA. Ajit Pawar's team will wait till the first Cabinet expansion, he said. Some posturing by the BJP's latest ally in Maharashtra despite getting its weakness exposed in the elections.

Snub for Ajit

However, the posturing didn't save NCP (AP) provocation and snubs from its rival faction and MVA partners, who said the Ajit Pawar group will have only one option left - to contest on the BJP's symbol in the future. The grapevine said that some of Ajit Pawar's MLAs were on their way to the rival Sharad Pawar camp. Currently, among the six that had formed pre-poll alliances, Ajit Pawar's outfit is in a fix, with no immediate solution in sight. The BJP in Maharashtra is also down, but, unlike Ajit's party, its existence lies in a very strong organisation and the Modi government's backing. It will soon overcome the recent poor outing, and go all out in the forthcoming Assembly contest for 288 seats. It will survive even if it goes out of power by the year-end, thanks to the party's hold at the Centre.

Shinde shines

CM Eknath Shinde proved lucky twice. Firstly, he landed the CM's job even while a strong contender in Devendra Fadnavis posed a challenge. That episode is a mystery. Secondly, Shinde outperformed the expectations his partners, rivals and public had of him in the Lok Sabha elections. His demeanour has undergone a complete overhaul since June 4, the day he left both Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar behind in the strike rate. He went very close to his bête noire Uddhav Thackeray's numbers.

Shinde's associates used an upper hand to claim that they could have won more seats had the BJP not interfered in the selection of candidates. Later, Shinde did talk about an unbreakable ‘Fevicol ka jod' with the BJP while extending support to Modi's candidature as the PM. It was he who got more attention after Chandrababu Naidu and Nitish Kumar. Riding high on his ‘magnificent seven', the longevity of Shinde is still to be seen. The ultimate calling will be the Assembly elections, to be fought in September/October under Shinde's leadership.

DF's test by fire

DyCM Fadnavis said he did not offer to quit because the Lok Sabha numbers had disappointed or frustrated him. He said there was a strategy behind his decision, which the BJP high command has put on hold. Apparently, the leadership doesn't want Fadnavis to go, not immediately, because if he is relieved from the government, questions will be raised about the CMs and leaders in whose states the party lost miserably. Forget other states, heads will roll in Maharashtra, too. State president Chandrashekhar Bawankule, whose term ends soon, will have to resign, and that will put Mumbai president Ashish Shelar under pressure to resign. Also, the party's national general secretary in-charge of Maharashtra will not be able to escape the blame. The blame game will never end. It will demoralise the party cadre further.

What appears feasible and doable with only three months to go for the Assembly elections is the status quo. The performance in the state polls will ultimately decide who goes out and who comes in. Right now, the BJP's primary objective is to review, correct, innovate and revive itself in Maharashtra, without glorifying its achievement at the Centre.

Dharmendra Jore is political editor, mid-day. He tweets @dharmendrajore

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Dharmendra Jore narendra modi devendra fadnavis Eknath Shinde columnists
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