Central Hall – Change of Guard on Cards?

Mumbai: Although former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis may be scotching all talks of him migrating to national politics in New Delhi, the impending biennial elections to seven Rajya Sabha seats falling vacant in early April and the uneasy, tensed relations Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray is having with both his Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) partners – the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), all forecast turbulent times ahead. It does seem that a change of guard both at the Centre and in Maharashtra is being worked out to nullify the impending storm.

The April biennial Rajya Sabha, the budget session of both the Centre and in the State could well prove to be the turning point. Indications are that once the union budget and some important pieces of legislation are passed in the Parliament, things could begin happening both at the Centre and in Maharashtra.

As we have already indicated that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is working out plans to fill up the leadership vacuum left due to the untimely demise of Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and Manohar Parrikar in recent months. The induction of Devendra Fadnavis, Shivraj Singh Chauhan, Dr Raman Singh and Suresh Prabhu has been in the works for some time now as Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is finding it difficult to turn around the sluggish economy.

Also Read: Central Hall – Rejig again?

Shiv Sena president and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray although has warned his detractors from trying to topple the MVA government, he himself is finding it uncomfortable to handle constant barbs aimed at ‘diluted Hindutva’. Both the Congress and the NCP appear to be taking Thackeray for a walk down the garden path. Thackeray is caught in a bind – he can ill afford to antagonize the Centre, which both his MVA allies want and neither can he overlook what is happening in Maharashtra.

Thackeray was comfortable managing the affairs of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), managing the affairs of the state appear to be a daunting task. Much to the dislike of the NCP, he has already consented to handover the documents in the Bhima-Koregaon riots case. The Sena is finding it difficult to counter the constant diatribe from the Congress over Veer Savarkar. The BJP is trying to take full advantage of the awkward situation that the Sena finds itself in today.

The danger for the Sena is that if it allows the situation to drift aimlessly any further, it is in danger of losing its claim over its core Hindutva ideology. The BJP is trying to prop-up his estranged cousin, Raj Thackeray and his faltering Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS). Though, the Sena president may have dismissed his estranged cousin’s bid to reinvent himself, the rankled response indicates that it has caused resentment deep within.

Thackeray is not just worried about the brewing resentment within the Sena, even the Congress is worried over resentment within its ranks, as both are unhappy over way the NCP has literally hijacked the government and is trying to dictate terms.

Another significant change that has gone largely unnoticed is stoic silence being maintained by senior Sena leader Sanjay Raut of late. Raut who in recent months was known for his dial a quote almost every other day, is suddenly gone silent. The old guard and senior rank and file in the Sena are not entirely happy with the way the party is being forced to abandon its Hindutva plank, which they fear might cost the party dearly if early polls are called for in the state.

The Sena is alright to the idea of Fadnavis being replaced in the state. For the BJP the high-handed attitude of Fadnavis has ruffled quite a few feathers of Eknath Khadse, Pankaja Munde and quite a few others. Political grapevine is that, the party will rehabilitate the Gopinath Munde camp in the party once Fadnavis exits the state scene. In order to keep its assurance to Khadse, Fadnavis needs to be called to Delhi, which works fine for even the Sena.

For the second time, Fadnavis has refuted talks of his shifting political base to Delhi. But once the decision is made, he will have no other option, but to toe the party line. Even the NCP might heave a sigh of relief as its bete noire is out of Maharashtra. The under-pinning argument is that if the Sena has to save itself from further ignominy and an early election is to be avoided, a change of guard, a realignment of power equations is what appears to be on the cards.

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