Berth pangs: On Maharashtra portfolio allocation


In Maharashtra, disaffection within the coalition unduly delayed portfolio allocation

With its expansion on Monday, the Maharashtra Council of Ministers is now 43 strong: the three key partners of the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA), the Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress got 15, 16 and 12 berths in the Ministry, respectively. Ajit Pawar, the nephew of NCP chief Sharad Pawar who vaulted to the BJP camp to briefly become the Deputy CM, now holds the same post in the government, almost as if his act of defiance of the party leadership did not happen at all. The sharing of portfolios remains a bone of contention among partners and within each party. Chief Minister Udhav Thackeray could not meet the deadline he had himself set for announcing the portfolios, which was a day after the expansion. He will be able to arrive at an agreement with leaders of allies and party colleagues, but that will not necessarily end bad blood and resentment in the camp. The MVA is an unlikely alliance as the Sena does not share a common ideological platform with the other two parties. Sena, the oldest ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), turned against the latter not on any question of ideology but on disagreements over power-sharing. The three parties are now bound by a shared rivalry with the BJP, and they also have a limited shared agenda. The endurance of that agenda and their bonding will be constantly tested and the bickering over portfolio allocation is one such occasion. Home, Revenue and Finance portfolios lend Ministers considerable sway and there are always multiple claimants for them.

The MVA consolidated several social and economic interest groups that perceived a threat from the BJP, and has good reasons to stay together till it gets closer to the next election. The opportunism in this alliance apart, the peaceful mobilisation of protesters against the Citizenship Amendment Act in recent weeks without any hostility from the police was indicative of the significance of the MVA as a bulwark against the BJP. Hunger for power could be a potent adhesive, but also the source of disarray for the alliance. The birth pangs of the Thackeray government, which took oath on November 28 and took until December 12 for the first round of portfolio allocation, then until December 31 for the expansion of the council, must act as an alert for all leaders. The populous cohort of dynasts in the council, which includes the CM and his son, also points to an inherent contradiction of most non-BJP parties. The Congress has eight, the NCP seven and the Sena has three members including the CM, in the council, who have acquired power as inheritance at least in part. The BJP too had its share of dynasts when it was in power. However, in the absence of a strong ideological orientation, dynastic politics becomes more jarring in non-BJP parties even as it remains essential for their sustenance.

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2020 6:26:35 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/berth-pangs-the-hindu-editorial-on-maharashtra-portfolio-allocation/article30463620.ece

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