Maharashtra Speaker’s election today: a political tragedy turning into farce

BJP puts up the son-in-law of the Council chairman as its candidate for Assembly Speaker; and the Governor who had stalled the election earlier because of a pending petition allows it


Sujata Anandan / Mumbai

It is not just musical chairs in Maharashtra as tragedy turns into farce. A father-in-law and son-in-law are now likely to preside over the two Houses of the Maharashtra Legislature and of course a former chief minister has been demoted to being a deputy chief minister. Neither the former chief minister nor the rebels who will now rule look all too happy.

The Maharashtra Governor who stalled the election of a Speaker to the Assembly on the ground that the matter was sub judice (a Fadnavis acolyte had gone to court) now has no issues having another – from his own party – elected despite the matter continuing to be sub judice.

Then both Independent and Sena rebels seem to be demanding their pound of flesh and ministerial berths, making it difficult for the new chief minister to allocate portfolios. There is no clarity on where things are heading.

The BJP has chosen its candidate for Speaker well – the suave and sophisticated Rahul Narvekar, who began his political career as a Shiv Sena spokesperson, then joined the NCP in the wake of his newly-acquired father-in-law Ramraje Nimbalkar, one of the many Maratha royals distributed among various parties, and finally joined the BJP when he failed to get elected from any other party.

Narvekar has assorted relatives by the same surname in various high places, including the municipal corporation in Mumbai and they too have represented different parties at different times. When in the Shiv Sena, he was appointed to groom the young college-going Aaditya Thackeray into facing the media with aplomb when the young lad was just beginning to show his political ambition that would eventually take him to becoming the first-ever elected Thackeray in politics.

Now if Narvekar wins the Speaker’s election, he and his father-in-law chairing the Council will make a happy pair of it side by side, not quite untouched by the Congress because Nimbalkar the council chairman, was originally with the Congress and still boasts of several friends and relatives therein.

Then, of course, there is Deepak Kesarkar, who is being trolled for having been on a “chaar dham yatra" – a sly reference to the fact that he has been with all the other three political parties in Maharashtra and is now headed into the arms of the BJP.

No one trolls better than Maharashtrians – fittingly precise, yet polite – and adding to their ranks are now two very senior leaders who one would not normally associate with tongue-in-cheek barbs that could fall just a bit short of below the belt.

Sharad Pawar had been restrained over the years at the manner in which former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had been calling him an old man past his prime. But now he lost no time in getting even, bringing Fadnavis down a peg or two by pointing out that never before in history had a chief minister been demoted to Deputy chief minister.

Fadnavis, Pawar suggested, had been fobbed off with an unconstitutional post; before Fadnavis supporters could respond, an otherwise straight-laced– and usually straight-faced - Prithviraj Chavan, another former chief minister, raised laughs by pointing to the “wedding celebrations” at the BJP office where the groom himself was missing!

What also became clear was that the Shiv Sena led by Uddhav Thackeray is not giving up as yet. The Speaker’s post had earlier belonged to the Congress in the MVA (Nana Patole). But when the party put up a candidate again, the Shiv Sena requested that he be withdrawn to facilitate the election of a Shiv Sena Speaker. The Congress promptly obliged.

Now this looks like a well-thought-out strategy – the Sena Chief Whip has issued directions to all its 55 MLAs to vote for their own candidate and not the BJP's. But when 37 of them seem to have rebelled, who is the party candidate? However, if they vote for Narvekar, reports suggest that Uddhav Thackeray and his supporters will immediately move for their disqualification.

And without legal recognition to the Shinde group, which must merge with the BJP to save their seats, these MLAs find themselves stuck between a rock and a very hard place – disqualification and immediate elections or merger with the BJP and loss of identiy and oblivion in the future.

Perhaps, the BJP is aware of this real risk of the new government not lasting very long? That is why they have played safe with playing second fiddle, it would seem.

(The writer is Consulting Editor, National Herald, Mumbai)

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