Not Just COVID-19, Maharashtra Govt Faces Another Challenge – BJP

The saffron party has ramped up efforts to pull the Maha Vikas Aghadi government down.

Mumbai: The three-party Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra government is faced with two big challenges. One, the rapidly increasing cases of COVID-19 – close to 60,000 as of Friday morning – and the other, the constant attempts by the BJP state leaders to pull the government down.

Since the coalition government– consisting of the Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress – came to power six months ago on November 28, the BJP has tried every trick in the book to bring it down. Of late, these attempts have intensified. From unleashing its bot army on social media to criticise the state government, to demanding President’s rule, the BJP has tried it all.

On May 25, BJP’s Rajya Sabha member Narayan Rane – who has in the past been in the Shiv Sena and the Congress – met Maharashtra governor B.S. Koshyari and demanded the imposition of President’s rule in view of the Shiv Sena-led state government’s “failure” in tackling the coronavirus pandemic. He claimed the ruling parties had failed in handling administrative affairs in the time of the unprecedented crisis. Rane was not the first to meet the governor; several other party leaders have flocked to the governor’s office with similar demands—indeed, BJP bigwigs are regular visitors to Raj Bhavan.

After Rane met the governor, the NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Sena head and the state’s chief minister Uddhav Thackeray held a meeting for longer than 90 minutes. Earlier that day, Pawar had met with governor Koshyari. The two parties, along with the Congress, have scotched talk of any political changes and said that the government is steady and all parties are as firmly together as they were six months ago.

Pawar, in an interview to NDTV, called the former chief minister and state opposition leader Devendra Fadanvis an “impatient man”. “Fadnavis is getting impatient… But there is no threat to the Maharashtra government,” Pawar said. He called his meeting with the governor a “courtesy call”. Rumours in political circles, however, are rife that there are internal dissensions within the coalition and both the NCP and the Congress are chafing at not having a big say in managing the COVID- 19 crisis. Maharashtra has been badly hit by the pandemic and has the most cases in the country.

The current government was formed in extraordinary circumstances after the collapse of the less than 80-hours long government of Fadnavis and NCP leader Ajit Pawar. While Ajit Pawar, who had defected from the NCP in a sudden, shock move, returned to the NCP fold soon after and was appointed the deputy chief minister, Fadnavis has grappled to stay relevant. So far, his strategy has been to constantly criticise the Sena and meet the governor. The BJP has not been able to reconcile with losing a state it considers important and would very much like to wrench it back.

Devendra Fadnavis (L) and Ajit Pawar (R) taking oath in front of the Maharashtra governor (C). Photo: PTI

Fadnavis’s manoeuvres 

During his five-year chief ministership, Fadnavis made many enemies within his own party. Senior BJP leaders like Eknath Khadse, Chandrashekhar Bawankule and Pankaja Munde were undermined and sidelined. His detractors claim he promoted only those close to him. Those leaders are now diplomatically silent, not supporting him while he vainly tries to attack Uddhav Thackeray and his government.

Fadnavis recently asked party workers – and children – across the state to hold black placards and wear masks of the same colour while registering their protest. This attempt soon boomeranged with #MaharashtraDrohiBJP trending on social media.

NCP was the first to launch a counter attack on the saffron party, with its party leaders claiming the BJP was committing “treason” with Maharashtra by attacking the government right now.

“Think once before holding black placard in hand, whether you are insulting doctors, policemen and health workers who are working round the clock for Maharashtra! Are you not committing treason with Maharashtra?” Maharashtra minister and state NCP chief Jayant Patil wrote on twitter.

Sena leaders too joined in. Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray called BJP’s placard campaign involving young kids a “shame”.

All this is not helping the state’s efforts to contain the virus and stop the increase in cases and deaths. The BJP has not offered any suggestions, much less assistance, to alleviate the problems of patients or migrants. Fadnavis, Rane and the BJP are not going to be able to dislodge the government with everyone’s minds on the COVID-19 crisis in the state.