Maharashtra governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari’s epistle to chief minister Uddhav Thackeray has drawn an instant and sharp riposte from the Aghadi leaders. The governor has been accused of using “intemperate language” while holding a constitutional post.
Governor Koshyari sought clarification from the state government on the delay in opening of temples as part of graded Covid-19 un-lockdown. The missive hit a raw nerve in Sena leadership as the former Uttarrakhand Chief Minister tried to rake up the ‘secular-vs-communal’ binary in a state polity where new social alliances are being tested and old friendships are withering away.
And Koshyari, the wiry frame clad in crisp dhoti-kurta understands it all too well.
A career politician from the RSS stable, with five decades and more of experience under his belt, the governor has seen real politics from close quarters during his days as sangh pracharak and thereafter. Precisely the reason he was chosen to head the gubernatorial position in a crucial state like Maharashtra.
The state over the last two years has emerged as a major laboratory for experiments in coalition politics by the opposition parties and estranged NDA allies with BJP’s growing dominance in the national politics.
The un-easy truce between Sena and BJP was finally broken with the outcome of the assembly elections in the state with latter once again emerging as the dominant partner in the alliance.
Despite a pre-poll tie-up, Sena broke away to form the government in alliance with NCP and Congress. The BJP made one last ditch attempt to stay afloat with Koshyari administering oath of office to Devendra Fadnavis and Sharad Pawar’s nephew Ajit Dada at the break of dawn.
The government fell, to be replaced by the ‘un-natural’ coalition of Sena, NCP and Congress.
The new political experiment in Maharashtra had larger political ramifications. It denoted a clear crystallisation of anti-BJP politics in the country where former NDA allies were willing to cross the Lakshman-Rekha to join hands with the Congress and others to keep BJP out of power.
Congress joining in a Sena led government in Maharashtra would have been an un-thinkable proposition a few years back. The grand old party is now comfortably ensconced as a minor player in a coalition run by Pawar and Uddhav.
The re-alignment however offered an opportunity to Congress in particular to break out of the secular-communal mould which the grand old party created to isolate the BJP with the dawn of coalition politics in India.
With the same binary now driving its own marginalisation, an alliance with the ardent followers of Hindutva politics was a shield against accusations of ‘minority-appeasement’.
In totality, the grand alliance in Maharashtra by its very composition has worked to appropriate to itself space on either side of the political divide- both on the Left and Right of the polity. Both the ‘communal and secular’ space. The natavist and the liberal constituency. The idea is to squeeze BJP for legroom to manoeuvre a comeback.
Quite naturally, despite emerging as the single largest party, in alliance with the Sena, BJP has felt cheated. India’s financial capital since the state assembly polls thus has witnessed many a political storm. The collateral damage inflicted has been widespread, including the Bollywood.
The BJP has responded to the MVA’s mobilisation by attempting to expand its own social base. It has tried to project party leadership among the Marathas. Aghadi has launched counter-moves by trying to make inroads into BJP’s backward vote-base.
The political overtones of governor’s letter to the elected chief minister seem allude to the emerging tensions in the state politics.
Sena got the cake. And it is eating it too.
The Maharashtra experience has made the wary BJP of post-poll slip-ups in other states as well. Precisely the reason why it is not taking any chances in Bihar.