The inherent contradictions of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra proved too much and led to, what many may say in hindsight, its inevitable collapse. Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s lack of political experience and overconfidence in his hold over the Shiv Sena members, first, allowed NCP Supremo Sharad Pawar to dominate the coalition and, then, failed to manage the revolt. Given the fact that Shiv Sainiks have an emotional attachment to the memory of Bal Thackeray and his legacy, it would have been easy for Uddhav to keep his flock together if he had been conciliatory in the beginning itself. Instead, his immediate response was arrogant, probably on the advice of the likes of Sanjay Raut, thereby further alienating the rebel MLAs.
Experts have pointed out that, by tying up with the NCP and Congress, the Shiv Sena had effectively abandoned the combative Hindutva that was its trademark, while its ‘Marathi Manoos’ identity could not overcome Sharad Pawar’s hold over the Marathas. Those among the party who needed to get re-elected became increasingly aware of this contradiction and opted for the Hindutva of BJP.
Now that the BJP will be back in power again in alliance with the majority of Shiv Sena MLAs, the original mandate of the electorate will be fulfilled. The challenge for the coalition will be to retain the Shiv Sena votebank, which is not just in danger of splitting but also becoming alienated. Having compromised too much with the NCP and Congress, Uddhav Thackeray has dealt a severe blow to the party. So, in the not too distant future, reconciliation between the two Sena factions will become necessary. The Thackerays will have to step down from their high pedestal and sincerely acknowledge the role and position of other senior party leaders such as Eknath Shinde. The party founder had distanced himself from the nitty-gritty of governance and focused on providing ideological direction. It is felt that Uddhav was conned by Sharad Pawar into becoming Chief Minister and ended up displaying his ineptitude. All he managed to do was serve the partners’ agenda, remaining blind to their corruption, and ignoring his own MLAs. How much he will be able to retrieve from this fiasco remains to be seen.
In the meanwhile, the BJP will need to provide appropriate political space to the rebels, in particular Shinde, so that its hold over power in Maharashtra is further consolidated.