Uddhav Thackeray’s five-year challenge
There are a few factors that would decide not just the survival, but even the success of the Maharashtra government
Will the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government complete its five-year tenure or collapse within a year or two? As the government of Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress cleared the trust vote and is getting down to business, questions are being raised over the possibility of its survival for the entire tenure. Leaders of the opposition (BJP) are sure that the government would collapse soon and Devendra Fadnavis would be back at the helm (Fadnavis even promised so in the Assembly on Sunday). A sizeable section of leaders from all three parties in the government too are sceptical about its survival for long, although some insist that the Thackeray government will complete its tenure. There are a few factors that would decide not just the survival, but even the success of the government.
BJP, the glue that binds them together
The main reason why the three parties came together was countering an Aggressive BJP. In the past five years, the BJP expanded its base, took control of local government bodies, tried to ‘fix’ leaders of Opposition parties and aimed to take over the political space of allies as well as rivals. The three parties in Maharashtra wanted to prevent the BJP from returning to power and again create problems for them. It was a question of survival. insiders in the three parties say as long as the BJP’s threat is looming large and the party looks strong, the allies will stick together.
Different ideologies delayed the coming together of the three parties. Due to this, the MVA almost lost out to the BJP as the latter made an attempt to form a government with Ajit Pawar. As long as the Congress and NCP, especially the Congress, does not face serious problem with its support base due to its alliance with Shiv Sena, the MVA government in Maharashtra would remain intact. Significantly, a section in the Congress is now justifying the alliance, saying this would help the party counter the propaganda that it is an anti-Hindu party. As such Uddhav Thackeray’s periodic remarks on Hindutva won’t damage the prospects of the government. However, how the voters respond to the Congress in the elections in the north as well as southern states like Tamil Nadu could dictate Congress’s further stand.
Thackeray and NCP chief Sharad Pawar were the driving force behind the three parties coming together. They also showed good understanding of each other’s political moves during the past few weeks, as the MVA was being formed. As long as the two leaders share cordial relations, their parties complement each other’s growth and their interests do not clash, there will be no problem to the government. If there is friction between them, the existence of the government would be in question.
What happens nationally would have a bearing on stability of the Thackeray-led government in Maharashtra. If the BJP continues to remain strong and wins the coming Assembly elections, the three would be convinced to stick together to avoid political damage. If the fortunes change for the BJP and parties like Congress or NCP get ambitious to reclaim their lost space, there would be trouble in Mantralaya.
Thackeray’s ability to run the government skillfully
In a coalition government, a lot depends on the skills of the person who heads it. The chief minister has to take the responsibility of survival of the government and take all allies along and at the same Time ensure the popular support to keep pressure on the allies. Can Uddhav Thackeray do it?
Given the nature of his party and his style of politics, few people believe that Thackeray will have the political skill to run such a government successfully. Nobody is sure about this as of now. However, in four days since he took over as chief minister, Thackeray has given a hint that he might be able to head the government liked a seasoned politician. He looked confident as he handled the proceedings in the Assembly during the two-day special session. His attack on the Opposition was full of barbs, but it was controlled aggression. His decision on Aarey Colony is an indication that he can sense popular sentiments and respond.
On the other hand, Thackeray still has a considerable section in his party that is sympathetic to the BJP. They include some of his advisors. In 2014, Thackeray hurriedly accepted a deal with the BJP after he was convinced by his aides that the NCP would hop on board with the BJP and grab power if the Sena delayed the decision while bargaining for a better deal. There is no guarantee this won’t happen again. Thackeray himself will have to take a call if he wants to stick to NCP-Congress alliance and show if he can give a stable government in the state. After all, his prestige is at stake as he is leading a government of three parties and the atmosphere does not look very helpful. And he has to prove himself as a chief minister who delivers.