Complex issue before SS Chief Minister is inclusion of secularism in the common minimum programme.
Maharashtra is, perhaps, the most important wealthy, progressive state in the country. It has 48 MPs in the Lok Sabha. Mumbai is the richest city in India, the business capital of the country. One of the richest men in the world lives in Mumbai. It was a cosmopolitan city long before Delhi. The Congress was founded in Mumbai in 1885. In August 1942, the Quit India resolution was passed at the AICC meeting held in Mumbai, under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. For many decades Gujarat was part of Bombay Presidency.
On 28 November, a new chapter in the history of Maharashtra was opened. In Shivaji Park, Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray, aged 59, was sworn as the 19th Chief Minister of the state. He heads a three-party coalition government. With him six Cabinet ministers also took the oath of office. From the Shiv Sena were Eknath Shinde and Subhas Desai. From the NCP of Sharad Pawar, the two were Jayant Patil and Chhagan Bhujbal, while Congress had Balasaheb Throat and Nitin Raut.
To put it mildly, it is an unholy alliance. So far Shiv Sena boss Uddhav Thackeray was known, not for his political expertise but for his skill as a brilliant photographer. His political inexperience is his greatest handicap. His first challenge will be how to manage his allies, neither of them are pushovers. The other very serious problem before the Chief Minister is the allotment of portfolios. The most complex issue before the Shiv Sena Chief Minister is the inclusion of secularism in the common minimum programme. From its birth in 1966, the Shiv Sena has been allergic to the word secular. Uddhav Thackeray cannot shed the Hindutva label. At his inauguration ceremony Shiv Sainiks used typical Sena slogans. “Jai Bhawani, Jai Shivaji” and “Awaz Konacha, Shiv Senacha”.
The Congress and the NCP are committed to secularism. Sonia Gandhi, in her letter to Chief Minister Thackeray wrote, “The people have high expectations from the coalition and I am confident it will provide them a stable, secular and pro-poor government.” To satisfy Sonia Gandhi, the Chief Minister will need loads of luck.
What impact will the events in Maharashtra have on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s NDA? As I wrote earlier, the invincibility myth has been exploded. In 2017, the BJP ruled over 65% of India. Today the figure has come down to 41%. The allies are no longer in awe of M/s Modi and Shah. If the BJP does not win Jharkhand then it will receive a body blow. Nothing succeeds like failure.
In the last ten days two smart moves have been made by the Modi government on the foreign policy front. The first was to send External Affairs Minister S. Jayashankar to Colombo to convey the congratulations and good wishes of the Prime Minister to the newly elected President of Sri Lanka, Gotabaya Rajapaksa. He also extended Prime Minister Modis’ invitation to President Rajapaksa to come to India on an official visit. The Sri Lanka President acted with praiseworthy promptness. He announced that the first country he would visit would be India.
He arrived in New Delhi on Thursday, the 28th, for a three-day visit. The Rajapaksas are a formidable political family. Elder brother Mahinda Rajapaksa has been appointed Prime Minister. Another brother has also joined the Cabinet.
The two Prime Ministers will have much to talk about. To re-emphasise the dynamism and strengthening bilateral relations. They will no doubt discuss trade and financial matters, the situation in the Indian Ocean Region. Above all the issues relating to the Tamil community.
Among our neighbours we have to pay special attention to Nepal and Sri Lanka. There is a temptation in both to play the China card against us. The Chinese are not averse to this “game” being played to create problems for us. India is, of course, aware of these activities and will never be caught unawares.
The incorrigible BJP member of the Lok Sabha, Pragya Thakur has again begun the anti-Gandhi and pro-Godse nonsense. Her party has finally taken action against her by removing her from the House Panel for Defence and asked her not attend meetings of the parliamentary party during the current session. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh put it well by saying, “Far From Nathuram Godse being called a patriot, we condemn the idea of treating him as a patriot. His (Gandhi’s) philosophy was, is and will remain relevant and he is a guide margdarshak for the nation.”