Suddenly in the middle of the Covid crisis we saw a return to old-fashioned politics. Last week there were speculations as to whether the Maharashtra government would be toppled. The speculation was set off with Sharad Pawar suddenly calling on the state governor, along with Praful Patel. This was followed by Rahul Gandhi’s now famous press conference where he stated that the Congress was not a key “decision maker” in Maharashtra, adding: “There is a difference between running a government and supporting a government.”
There is a perception that the Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray has not been able to manage the corona crisis, and his allies are distinctly unhappy with the fallout. For one, they point out that the CM has rarely ventured out from his house, preferring to communicate digitally.
And when one of those unhappy allies happens to be the shrewd Sharad Pawar, then certainly the Shiv Sena has something to be worried about. Specially as the NCP is on the BJP’s list of possible allies. As for Rahul Gandhi, well the Congress does have a track record of being very fickle, especially when they are not in office but, to borrow Rahul’s words, playing the role of “supporting and not running” the government. Recall what happened to the United Front government in 1996 to 1998, and more recently in Karnataka.
And so, for a couple of days the heat was on the Maharashtra government with the BJP only too happy to have media attention diverted from its handling of the Covid crisis. When asked whether they were serious about toppling the state government, senior BJP leaders would give you the noncommittal but politically loaded “let’s see” kind of a reply. But in a post-Covid return to politics, this is one state that is ripe for the plucking, should the BJP feel the need to stretch its political arm.
As for other political hotspots, well once the health ministry gives the go ahead, the bypolls for 22 seats in Madhya Pradesh need to be held. These are crucial as the numbers involved can topple the BJP-led state government. Interestingly, 16 of these bypolls will be from the Gwalior-Chambal area which is Jyotiraditya Scindia’s stronghold. If he has to prove his USP to his new party, then Scindia has to ensure that these seats fall into the BJP’s kitty. More importantly, these will be the first elections that Scindia will be campaigning against the Congress and for a party that until now he has been criticising in his public speeches.
Also, will Kamal Nath give the BJP a walkover? The former CM has spent lockdown camping in Bhopal and planning his comeback. In fact, Nath has assured the Congress High Command that with the mismanagement of the Covid crisis the Congress stands a strong chance of defeating the BJP in the coming bypolls. And later in the year will be the Bihar elections. Here, the BJP ally and state CM Nitish Kumar is facing brickbats for his handling of the migrants’ crisis, for not welcoming back the workers with open arms, for not sending buses to rescue stranded Bihari students in Kota — as opposed to Yogi Adityanath who immediately ensured that the students from his state were brought back.
And Kumar has also not covered himself in glory for squabbling with the Delhi CM over the payment of passage for those migrant workers coming home from Delhi. His opponent Tejashwi Yadav was quick to sense an opportunity and immediately offered to help. So, all in all, there is a slow but sure return to good-old politics, all in the shadow of a serious health crisis.