As events of the last few days after the Maharashtra results have shown, this is a state that continues to defy the norms set for it by the centre and it will challenge authority when it comes to safeguarding its own people's interest. To understand the context and the pride it takes in its own identity and place at the power table, it's important to recall how the ascendance and assertion by Chhatrapati Shivaji led to the weakening dominance of the rulers of Delhi.
After 2014, the rise of the BJP under the Modi-Shah duo has been phenomenal; the party cemented its dominance further in the 2019 election. The rise of the BJP at the centre came at the expense of India's opposition as well as its own allies, leading it to a point where political parties, but not the country's people, appeared to have almost resigned themselves to their fate of inevitable defeat. However the pushback from the people against single-party dominance was witnessed in the state elections that followed soon after the general elections of 2019 that gave the BJP a brute majority at the centre. What was predicted to be a clean sweep for BJP in Haryana and Maharashtra turned out quite differently. What was significant in Maharashtra was that the challenger to the BJP's path to power was, in fact, its longest-standing ally, the Shiv Sena.
The BJP and Shiv Sena shared a three-decade-long partnership, an alliance that stood the test of time, the highs and the lows, whether in power or out of it, from the heady days of seeing the BJP make inroads in the state under the leadership of LK Advani, amply supported by Balasaheb Thackeray's Shiv Sena, to seeing it rise nationally under the new leadership of Amit Shah and Uddhav Thackeray in the state. However, the change in leadership also brought in changes in the equation that led to the Shiv Sena charting its own journey in 2014, only to return to the NDA after the election. The distribution of power in the state however was not equitable and also led to cracks in the alliance; but, as coalition dharma mandates, the Shiv Sena, keeping the state of Maharashtra above its own interests, took this in their stride.
A regional party that witnessed a rise in vote share in the general elections and state, justifying its regional aspirations and need to expand and grow beyond the alliance, was being thwarted at every step. For the Shiv Sena, it was time to reclaim and reassert its own space. It was apparent that the alliance for all intents and purposes was just a tool for the national party, BJP, to cannibalise the regional party, and all that it stood for, to dominate the state. Despite the unease, the pre-poll alliance was stitched up before the general election by both parties on the back of the assurance made by BJP President Amit Shah to Uddhav Thackeray that there would be equal sharing of power (including the top post) and seats in the assembly. The Shiv Sena agreed to the request of the state unit of the BJP to give up some some seats; then, the election results were not as per the expectations of the BJP or the Shiv Sena; what however was the last nail in the alliance's coffin was when Devendra Fadnavis, without consulting the Shiv Sena, declared himself the Chief Minister and backtracked on all commitments made to the Sena when formalizing the alliance. It became pretty clear that the BJP wanted the Sena to share power, but was not willing to accept its share of coalition dharma and responsibility. It also became clear that this time, the Shiv Sena would tolerate none of the insults heaped on it.
What followed was a series of events that no script writer would have been able to create and a battle of nerves between the two parties. The BJP, which first informed the Governor that it would not form the government or get into any alliance to come to power, made a very rapid U-turn by trying to engineer a split within Sharad Pawar's NCP to grab power. Such was the haste to implement the ill-conceived plan that they reduced the Governor and President's office to rubber stamps so as to get to power. What they didn't expect was a fight back by the Shiv Sena-NCP combine amply supported by the Congress; it was all-hands-on-deck strategy for the three who combined their resources to take head on this quasi-constitutional government formation. While the NCP got busy in bringing its flock together, the Shiv Sena ensured that everything needed to keep MLAs safe was provided, while the Congress drafted its legal eagles to fight this battle in the Supreme Court.
It has become the norm to break all constitutional processes to come to power under the BJP. We do India a huge disservice by justifying these sort of gambits as a "masterstroke" move; in particular, the breathless media needs to exercise restraint before hailing it as 'chanakya neeti'. The country has watched this in Arunachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa, Meghalaya, Karnataka, where despite not having the requisite numbers, the BJP clawed its way into office. Maharashtra was not going to take this lying down or follow this; the Supreme Court intervened to ensure that constitution reigned supreme.
This battle for Maharashtra has seen a historic and tectonic shift in the power dynamics of India. The coming together of the Shiv Sena and Congress to run a coalition government may be a first, but the history of cooperation between the two sides is well-documented. Sharad Pawar's NCP and the Shiv Sena will see the might of two hugely important regional players coming together to ensure that Maharashtra gets the governance it truly deserves. Those who say the alliance will not last are yet again making a 'masterstroke' of a mistake. This alliance has to last at it paves the way for the tenets of democracy to thrive and to retain the balance of power. As the BJP sees its hold shrink in various states from 71% in December 2017 to 40% in November 2019, it surely needs to introspect the impact of its own political maneuvers that dilute all the promises it stood for and is driving away its long-standing allies.
Also, a word of caution to all those who hastily rush to write off the Shiv Sena, inspired by our city's pride - Bollywood - Picture abhi baaki hai kyunki Tiger Zinda Hai!
(Priyanka Chaturvedi is a Deputy Leader & National Spokesperson, Shiv Sena.)
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.