The resignation of Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis comes as a fatal blow to the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance and takes the State a step closer to the imposition of President’s rule. The denouement caps a two-week-long power struggle between the two pre-poll allies. Hours before the Friday midnight deadline when the term of the current Assembly ends, Fadnavis, the BJP’s uncompromising choice to head the State for a second term, called it quits and lost no time in lashing out at the Sena for being unreasonable in its demands. Despite securing a majority in the last month’s elections, the alliance partners failed to break the deadlock on the government formation, largely due to the intransigence of the Sena — a junior partner with a tally of 56 MLAs in the 288-member Assembly — which insisted on Chief Minister’s post on a rotation basis, citing a 50:50 formula of power-sharing. What Maharashtra witnessed for nearly a fortnight was nothing short of brinkmanship as the two parties were locked in a bitter tussle. Particularly frustrating were the shenanigans of the Sena whose belligerent utterances kept the political temperature raising. After the collapse of the backchannel talks, the daggers are now out in the two camps with its senior leaders wrangling over sharing of CM’s post. It would be a mockery of the public mandate if the State moves towards President’s rule. At a time when farmers of the State are reeling under severe distress, the stalemate in government formation has already seriously hampered administration.
All through the tussle, it was a question of who would blink first. The BJP, the single largest party with 105 legislators, was in no mood to form a minority government while the Sena was keen on extracting its pound of flesh. It is preposterous on the part of Sena to claim that the people of Maharashtra want a leader of the regional party to occupy the Chief Minister’s post. The fear of being isolated had forced the Sena to accept the BJP’s diktat after the 2014 elections, which they had fought separately. The scene has changed post-2019 polls, emboldening the Sena to drive a hard bargain. Though both the parties together have 161 seats, way past the magic figure of 145, the Sena sought to play hardball by demanding an equal share in the Ministry besides the chief ministerial post for half the term. The BJP’s below-par performance in Maharashtra and Haryana Assembly polls has resulted in a shift in power dynamics, making it more vulnerable to the demands from the current and potential allies.