Uddhav Thackeray dominates, readies for the next

Updated: Jul 13, 2020, 07:30 IST | Dharmendra Jore | Mumbai

The chief minister Uddhav Thackeray gets his way as its MVA partner NCP calls for a truce that can be anything but permanent

Uddhav Thackeray
Uddhav Thackeray

Dharmendra JoreChief Minister Uddhav Thackeray marked last week by dominating the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) affairs. When the fractures in the tripartite formation, especially between the Shiv Sena and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), showed without an X-ray examination, grand master Sharad Pawar swung into action to heal them. After holding parleys with Thackeray, Pawar eased the tension considerably through an exhaustive interview with the Sena mouthpiece Saamna. Pawar is the only third politician after the Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray and Uddhav Thackeray to have featured in this kind of interaction in the newspaper which the NCP boss's companion in last year's MVA coup, Sena MP Sanjay Raut, edits. The third part of the interview will appear today.

Pawar denied any fissures in the MVA and asserted that he wasn't really a backseat driver for the Thackeray sarkar. He compared the Thackerays, and inferred that unlike the Sena founder, the son was cautious in taking decisions, especially related to the lockdown relaxations. However, the appreciation came with a caution that whatever the result — failure or success — would belong to the CM, and yet the MVA would remain intact. Fair enough, says the Sena camp, expecting Pawar to live up to his word whenever odds hit the government that has become a sort of a pilot experiment for the country's national and regional parties. Thackeray may have invited risks by asserting himself so aggressively, but the Sena leaders say their boss will be ready to force his way through if the ally breaks truce and strikes back.

CM's caution vindicated
A lot happened behind the curtain last week and even before during the lockdown and unlocking period. Differences of opinion sprang up over administrative appointments, the reshuffling of police officers in Mumbai and municipal commissioners in the MMR and over many other smaller and bigger, significant and insignificant matters. It had shades of all components integral to politics — pride and prejudice, fear and caution, faith and fallacy, deceit and intimidation. Diplomacy worked. Since someone had to step back, the NCP chose to play second.

Among other things, the MVA's future also depends on the NCP's game-plan. So, all eyes will be on Pawar and his folks. Sources say the Sena is very assertive in demanding clearance for all matters from the CM, be it MMR or rest of Maharashtra. With an eye on the civic polls in Mumbai and rest of Maharashtra, the CM has pressed a dedicated man, a trusted minister, into service to ensure nothing goes wrong for the Sena in transferring the highly-placed officers of the Centre and state services.

The opinion differed when the CM hesitated in lifting the lockdown measures in haste. Pawar and party leaders were for more relaxations (the Congress also felt the same way), while the Sena insisted on a phased-wise unlocking. The past 40 days have vindicated the CM and the NCP boss seems to have dropped the idea of easing strict enforcement. After a month of unlocking, we have come to the stage that several cities and towns have been put under the lockdown 1-like regimen. Thackeray pushed aggressively for uniform lockdown measures in the MMR which has had an exponential rise in COVID-19 cases during June and July. Uddhav's lockdown plan was opposed by some people in the NCP, but these very opponents have now accepted the idea in MMR.

Some 200km from Mumbai, NCP's other power centre, Ajit Pawar, who is also the deputy to Thackeray, has ensured a stricter lockdown in Pune, Pimpri and Chinchwad. Ajit got the Pune municipal commissioner transferred because the officer opposed lockdown. Now guardian minister Chhagan Bhujbal has demanded that Nashik be shut. It seems Bhujbal will also have to deal with top police and administrative officers to have his say implemented.

Students need the final word
With some political worries put aside, the CM will have to deal with raging sentiment in university students, who, according to the UGC, must take their final year exams. The state has rejected the missive. The Sena has accused certain people in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of manipulating the exam issue to put the MVA in the dock.

Governor's intervention
The party has sought the governor's intervention, saying that if one of the safest places like Rajbhavan could have COVID-19 patients, the eight lakh students coming from various places cannot be expected to be safe while going out to write their exams in the ever growing pandemic. Going by the turn of events, it appears that the Maharashtra CM may need to petition Prime Minister Narendra Modi to resolve the mess.

Dharmendra Jore is political editor, mid-day. He tweets @dharmendrajore Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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