Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari, on the conviction that any single party or a coalition of parties could not form a cabinet in the state, has recommended to the union home ministry imposition of President's rule in Maharashtra, and the central cabinet has approved it. With this, the political impasse which has been going on for the last 19 days in Mumbai has come to a crossroads. After giving opportunity to form a ministry first to BJP and then to Shiv Sena, and on the failure of both, the Governor gave time to NCP the third largest party in the legislative assembly till 8.30 Tuesday night. But seven hours before that deadline ended, he recommended President's rule. Shiv Sena, which has made it clear that it would not accept that decision has approached the Supreme Court against it.
The Governor's decision came when Congress president Sonia Gandhi had held parleys with NCP leaders in Delhi and then sent a delegation comprising KC Venugopal, Mallikarjun Kharge and Ahmed Patel to Mumbai and the team started discussions about a possible ministry formation with related parties and the Governor sent his recommendation much ahead of the deadline for NCP's reply, an act smacking of some back-door string-pulling. What can be gleaned from this is that the Centre fears a non-BJP government being formed in Maharashtra. And given the loyalty of the governor to BJP and its leadership of Modi-Amit Shah team, any other conclusion would be out of place, especially with the backdrop of BJP-appointed governors in such critical situations including that of Goa. Things stand fluid now and hinge on the questions like the fate of Shiv Sena's petition before Supreme Court, and if the assembly stays in suspended animation who will win in the ensuing horse-trading. But one thing is certain: to defeat BJP in such an emerging tussle, the other three parties will have to make an all out fight, even then with little prospects of victory.
BJP, which was sitting in the comfortable presumption that it could win single-party majority in the assembly election, experienced a setback despite an aggressive campaign led by prime minister Narendra Modi, but could have easily formed a ministry jointly with the alliance partner Shiv Sena. But then why did circumstances emerge that made such a natural sequel impossible? And why did the Congress, even when it had no big hopes and without its national leaders entering the campaign in full force and amidst a crisis of local eladers defecting one after another, end up with improving its seat position? These are questions raised through the new developments. The setback suffered by BJP, after an unprecedented victory in Lok Sabha election to the state assembly of Maharashtra which is the next biggest fortress of extreme Hindutva after UP, should lead to a rethinking. Modi's main campaign plank was the big achievement of the abrogation of special status provisions of Jammu & Kashmir and making it a union territory. And for this BJP had in company Shiv Sena which would only outdo BJP in anti-Pakistan propaganda, to boot. The matter to dwell upon is, why Hindu votes went in favour of NCP and Congress both of whom were silent on such hyper-nationalistic themes. The message delivered through the poor show of NDA is that in the face of acute economic recession, unemployment increasing every day and price rise, it is such life-affecting issues that sway people's minds rather than emotional national issues. But just as a leopard cannot be stripped of its dots, frenzied nationalism of the ultra-Hindutva variety cannot incorporate the agenda of solving people's problems. On top of it is the fact that lust of power will overpower every other urge.
On the the brasstacks side, Shiv Sena supremo insists the BJP had guaranteed that once NDA was voted to power, the post of chief minister would be shared for two and a half years each. But BJP, which denies any such assurance, says it is prepared for compromise on any other matter. Even after days and nights of heated negotiations about it at different levels, the crisis could not be resolved. At that point, Shiv Sena turned to NCP and Congress, and after much initial reluctance, the two parties showed signs of offering support to it. It was then that the governor, all of a sudden made his recommendation to the Centre, which was prompt blessed by the central government. What gets proved by the developments is that ultra-Hindutva nationalism fails to hold together its own ranks and Hindutva is not a unifying force even in its most fertile land. That being so, one cannot help asking the question whether these are the people who talk loud about one nation, one language, one culture and one civil code.