2012: The year Maharashtra lost Thackeray, Deshmukh
The death of Shiv Sena patriarch Bal Thackeray went on to become the biggest news in Maharashtra's political arena in 2012.
Mumbai: The death of Shiv Sena patriarch Bal Thackeray went on to become the biggest news in Maharashtra's political arena in 2012, during which two-time chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh also passed away, the state secretariat caught fire and NCP strongman Ajit Pawar quit the Prithviraj Chavan-led ministry, only to rejoin it two months later. Though he never held any office, Thackeray dominated the state's political landscape for over four decades and his death evoked extreme emotions across the socio-political spectrum. Soon there was talk about the estranged Thackeray cousins Raj and Uddhav burying the hatchet for the sake of the 'Marathi manoos'.
The rumours were also there in July, when Raj met Uddhav, who was admitted to a hospital for angioplasty and drove him to his residence 'Matoshree' in Bandra. However, the possibility of any "merger" look bleak now. As MNS chief, Raj has carved out his own identity, has 13 legislators and has built up the party apparatus. Uddhav has also proved his organisational skills in municipal elections in 2007 and 2012 and Assembly elections of 2009.
Three months before Thackeray's demise, the state lost Deshmukh, who began as an obscure village sarpanch to become a powerful chief minister and Union minister by negotiating the choppy political waters of Maharashtra with elan. In September, the state's politics was jolted by the resignation of Ajit Pawar as deputy chief minister in the wake of alleged irregularities in irrigation projects. Reinstated 72 days later, he found himself cornered by a combative Opposition in the winter session of the legislature.
The Opposition questioned the legal validity of Pawar's appointment, saying the post was not constitutional, and dubbed his taking oath as deputy chief minister sans any ministerial post as a violation of a high court order. Ties between the Congress and NCP, already strained, plunged to a new low this year. The strain in ties was highlighted after resignation of Ajit Pawar in the wake of Chavan promising a white paper on the alleged irrigation scam.
In June, a massive fire broke out in Mantralaya, the state secretariat in south Mumbai, claiming five lives and destroying several documents. An audit report had said safety norms were violated and fire extinguishers and alarms in the building were not working.
The much-awaited announcement by the Centre to transfer the Indu Mill land in Mumbai for constructing a memorial to B R Ambedkar, was made a day before the death anniversary of the architect of the Constitution. The development led to a race among political parties and leaders to claim credit, and several Dalit leaders sought to make the most of the significant decision. Ambedkar's ashes are interred at Chaityabhoomi, situated in the vicinity of the 12.5 acre land of the Indu Mill. Dalit groups had set Ambedkar's death anniversary as the deadline for the announcement, threatening to forcibly occupy the mill premises if this was not done.
A year after hogging national limelight, Anna Hazare spent 2012 concentrating on issues closer home, be it the opposition to toll tax or backing farmers issues in the state. Hazare extended his support to the "just" cause of sugarcane growers in Maharashtra, led by Independent MP Raju Shetty. He also alleged that Shiv Sena MLA Suresh Jain, who was arrested in connection with the Jalgaon Housing scam, was getting "five star treatment" while in hospital.
At a joint press conference in October, Hazare and former Army chief Gen VK Singh targeted the UPA government over decisions like FDI in multi-brand retail and sought immediate dissolution of Parliament, saying the two pillars of democracy were not acting in the manner enshrined in the Constitution. Arvind Kejriwal also joined Shetty for a farmers rally in Sangli. The Aam Aadmi Party pledged to work for fair pricing of farm produce and opposed "suppression" of farmers protests. Two farmers were killed on November 12 during the protest for fair sugarcane pricing.
As the year drew to a close, senior Shiv Sena leader Manohar Joshi indicated the shape of things to come by inviting NCP president Sharad Pawar to join NDA, saying, "He would be able to end quarrels within the BJP-led alliance and could also become PM."