Uddhav Thackeray may yet turn tables even as musical chairs and nepotism rule roost in Maharashtra

Shiv Sena chief whip has asked all 55 MLAs to vote for its candidate for Speaker. If they vote for BJP’s candidate, Uddhav Thackeray and his supporters may immediately move for their disqualification

Former Maharashtra CM and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray (File photo)
Former Maharashtra CM and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray (File photo)
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Sujata Anandan / Mumbai

It is not just musical chairs, not just nepotism in Maharashtra, but tragedy turning into a farce, with an NCP leader and his son-in-law all set to preside over the two Houses of the Maharashtra Legislature; a rebel on “chaar dham yatra"; a former CM demoted to a deputy; rebels standing to lose whichever way they swing and senior leaders like Sharad Pawar and Prithviraj Chavan taking potshots at Devendra Fadnavis without naming him.

In the midst of all this is the Maharashtra governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari who had stalled the election of a new Speaker to the Assembly after the resignation of the incumbent on the grounds that the matter was sub judice (a Devendra Fadnavis acolyte had gone to court), but now has no issues having another – from his own party – elected despite the matter continuing to be sub judice.

Then, both independents and the Shiv Sena rebels seem to have gone on an ego trip, not wanting the other to bypass him into a spot in the cabinet, the new CM finding it difficult to seek their acquiescence and no clear indication of where everything is headed.

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 joining 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 ambitions that would eventually take him to becoming the first-ever elected Thackeray in politics.

If Narvekar wins the Speaker’s election, he and his father-in-law will presumably make a happy pair, not quite untouched by the Congress because Nimbalkar, the incumbent Legislative Council chairman, currently with the NCP, was originally with the mother party 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 has been restrained over the years at the manner in which Devendra Fadnavis had been calling him an old man, past his prime. But now he lost no time in bringing Fadnavis down a peg or two by driving a thorn in the flesh of his self-esteem: Never before in history has a chief minister been demoted to deputy chief minister, Pawar said.

The manner in which he phrased it indicated that Fadnavis had been fobbed off with an unconstitutional post and before Fadnavis supporters could respond, a generally straight-laced – and usually straight-faced –Prithviraj Chavan, another former Maharashtra CM, pointed out to the “wedding celebrations” at the BJP office from where the groom himself was missing! Which was, of course, another barb at Fadnavis having been demoted by his party.

But in the midst of all this farce, it is clear 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 Shiv Sena candidate for the post. The Congress promptly obliged.

Now, this looks like a well-thought out strategy – the Shiv 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 any 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 identity 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.

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