Uddhav Thackeray’s government in Maharashtra shows resilience in the face of BJP ploys to destabilize it
Maharashtra’s budget session The Assembly got off to a flying start on March 2. On Sunday, 24 hours before the session, Forestry Minister Sanjay Rathod resigned to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, who accepted it and himself took over the portfolio.
The resignation was prompted by an investigation into the suicide of a woman in Pune in which Rathod’s name was mentioned. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had planned to disrupt the debates in the Assembly on this matter. Rathod’s resignation ended the attack, but it highlighted the BJP’s focus on destabilizing the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in Maharashtra. Despite repeated attempts by saffron forces and the grueling pressures of the past year, the MVA led by Uddhav Thackeray has remained stable. Even the harshest critics of the Shiv Sena concede that Uddhav Thackeray ran the government calmly and listened to experienced advice.
In the first week of February, newspapers reported the death of a 22-year-old woman named Pooja Chavan, who fell from the balcony of her apartment in Pune. The story remained in the news as photographs and audio clips circulated connecting it to Rathod. Although investigations are ongoing and police are verifying the authenticity of the clips, the BJP has called for strict action against Rathod and demanded that criminal proceedings be opened against him.
Rathod, who is the prime minister to resign from the MVA, said: “The opposition is playing dirty politics. The investigation must be conducted impartially and action must be taken if someone is found guilty. There should be no pressure on investigative agencies to save someone from the case or destroy someone’s life. He said he was confident in the truth and therefore tendered his resignation.
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Some relief for Rathod came in the form of the girl’s parents who met Uddhav Thackeray and said that while they wanted an investigation, they believed the allegations against Rathod were baseless. In a letter to Uddhav Thackeray, the girl’s parents and sister wrote: “No one should be a scapegoat just because of suspicion. We never asked for Rathod’s resignation. While we have lost our daughter, politics are played out daily on her death. So don’t take Rathod’s resignation by making him an accused because of politics.
The BJP’s stratagems
This incident is only the latest in a long list of accusations and ploys by the BJP. Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee chair Nana Patole said the Maharashtra opposition was using all its energies to disrupt the government instead of being a mature and responsible opposition.
The BJP has taken every opportunity to attack Uddhav Thackeray since it broke Shiv Sena’s 30-year partnership with the BJP after the 2019 parliamentary elections and formed the government under the MVA. He criticized the handling of the COVID-19 crisis, said farmers had not received a farm loan exemption nor the promised incentives. Devendra Fadnavis, leader of the opposition and former chief minister, alleged that three and a half lakh farmers had their electricity cut and 75 lakh citizens were threatened with power disconnection for non-payment of bills.
“If farmers and the poor are subjected to such administrative atrocities from the government, it equates to the Mughal regime,” Fadnavis said, never missing an opportunity to make joint comments. Fadnavis even criticized non-issues such as the MVA not celebrating the birthday of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, who articulated Hindutva’s divisive ideology.
COVID control measures
During the current budget session, Fadnavis accused the government of mismanaging the coronavirus crisis. Uddhav Thackeray responded by saying that even the Center’s team that recently visited the state to assess COVID control measures recognized the state’s efforts. The team said the system had run down due to relentless toil. The chief minister said the state was increasing healthcare facilities and widening the net for vaccine eligibility.
Uddhav Thackeray reiterated he was not in favor of a lockdown. “I don’t want to leave people hungry. I don’t want the economy to shut down, ”he said, doing a search at the four-hour notice given on March 24, 2020, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a lockdown.
He reminded the opposition that when he asked the prime minister to stop local trains and donate long-distance trains to help those in other states get home, he got no response. “We made sure that the poor were fed. And yet, you blame us, ”he said, pointing to the duplicity of the BJP.
While Uddhav Thackeray responded to the BJP’s jibes each time with a calm that contrasts directly with that of his father Bal Thackeray, others in the MVA attacked the BJP head-on. The new head of the State Congress, Nana Patole, has instilled a fighting spirit not only in the party’s weak state unity, but also in the MVA.
When the BJP raised a tinge on Rathod, Patole denounced the BJP over the suicide of Mohan Delkar, the independent MP for Dadra and Nagar Haveli who was found dead in a Mumbai hotel. Delkar’s 15-page memo alleged acts of torture and harassment and names cited. The note also mentions his appeals to the Prime Minister, the Minister of the Interior and the Parliament and the lack of response to those appeals.
Taking the fight to the BJP corner, Patole denounced the party for his lack of cooperation during the coronavirus crisis, for soaring fuel prices and for the Centre’s agricultural blunders.
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Sachin Sawant, secretary general and spokesperson for the State Congress unit, joins the fray. Throwing a volley of questions and counter accusations at the BJP, he asked: “Why was Nihalchand [Meghwal], who was accused of rape in 2014, taken to government and why Prime Minister Modi did not resign even after the allegations were made? Why was the audio tape of police surveillance of a woman in Gujarat deleted by BJP leaders? An audio cassette of a BJP Union minister was released as she tried to overthrow the Congressional government in Rajasthan. In this tape, the minister openly tried to bribe the deputies.
The minister did not provide audio samples and said the tapes were fake. The country has seen BJP leaders backing rapists in the Kathua, Unnao and Hathras rape cases. Sakshi Maharaj had gone to meet BJP MP Kuldip Singh Sengar, who was sent to prison over rape case [Unnao]. The victim attempted suicide in front of the house of Chief Minister Adityanath and her father was killed, and in the Chinmayanand case the victim was arrested. The BJP therefore has no moral right to talk about anything. In the face of all this, one would have expected the BJP to retreat, but the loss of 2019 is obviously still just as bad. As were the losses of the BJP strongholds of Nagpur and Pune in the 2019 elections.