When BJP chief Amit Shah assured a concerned Ramdas Athawale last week, “Don’t worry, everything will be fine in Maharashtra,” the RPI leader wasn’t aware of the big game waiting to unfold.
For the coup at dawn the BJP engineered with the defection of NCP leader Ajit Pawar was as brazen as the Shiv Sena making the impossible-to-concede demand of chief ministership from the BJP though it had about 50% less seats in the Assembly.
The stealth with which it was executed—Devendra Fadnavis staking his claim to form the government late into the night, Governor Koshiyari quickly processing it without verifying if Ajit had his party’s full support, the Centre burning the midnight oil to find a workaround for not holding a Cabinet meeting to recommend lifting of Central rule, President Kovind signing on the dotted line at the break of dawn, the swearing-in of Fadnavis as CM and Ajit as his deputy soon after and a November 30 deadline for proving their majority—indicated the BJP’s single-minded pursuit of power. It snatched the rug away from under Uddhav Thackeray’s feet not even 24 hours after NCP patriarch Sharad Pawar announced there was consensus on the Sena boss being the head of the NCP-Congress-Sena alliance.
While Sharad Pawar managed to collect most of his flock after the revolt, murmurs of Ajit bolting were heard in the state for at least a week. It’s inconceivable the senior Pawar wasn’t aware of what was cooking under his nose.
Chances are, Machiavelli let it happen, protective as he is towards his family, to take the CBI heat off Ajit, who is being prosecuted for graft.
Ajit’s ability to deliver the numbers for the Speaker’s election and the floor test—which could be advanced by the Supreme Court—remains to be seen.
He was a loose cannon the NCP wanted to sideline; will he be an asset for the BJP? As for the Sena and the Congress, both yielded substantial ideological ground to stitch their partnership, thus exposing their flanks.
Whichever side loses the game eventually will be badly bruised. A riveting power play is on.