How to Lose Friends and Antagonise Voters: The True Story of Maharashtra’s Government Formation


How to Lose Friends and Antagonise Voters: The True Story of Maharashtra’s Government Formation

Illustration: Siddhakanksha Mishra

It’s been a little over a month since Maharashtra voted for a new state government, but there’s still a need for a Supreme Court-mandated floor test in Raj Bhavan today to determine which party’s leader will end up getting the Chief Minister’s chair, as well as the chance to record an emotional song with their wife on the banks of a river in the outskirts of Mumbai next year. 

What we do know, for now, is that the SC has asked all the parties interested in forming the government to go through the floor test “immediately”, to rule out the possibility of horse-trading. This means that by tonight, we may finally have the answer to the question that’s kept political observers, Twitter influencers, budding screenplay writers, and conspiracy theorists entertained for over a month — Maharashtra ka CM kaun? The drama has already begun, as the newly (or at least, month-old) elected MLAs have begun taking their oaths in a special Assembly session.

Right now, things don’t seem to be going in the incumbent BJP’s favour. Following the SC order last night, on-again, off-again chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had to resign from his CM’s post for the second time this month, along with his deputy-for-a-day, NCP’s Ajit Pawar. Despite having won the most seats (106), the BJP has been unable to stake claim to a majority in the Assembly. However, the party’s ability to pull off last-minute victories a la Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United, implies that the BJP’s return can’t fully be ruled out. A photo Fadnavis posted on Twitter yesterday, which shows him smiling while handing over his resignation, has led a few to believe that the Chanakya Niti may still be in play here. 

Meanwhile, the three other parties in contention for the post, the Shiv Sena, the Congress, and the NCP, have taken only about 30 days to come up with their own masterstroke. After several low-key shade battles and promises that they wouldn’t be caught dead taking each other’s support, they’ve decided to come together under the banner of the Maharashtra Progressive Front, and will stake claim to form the government as well.

Despite having won the most seats (106), the BJP has been unable to stake claim to a majority in the Assembly.

The frontrunner for CM in this situation — if rumours are to be believed — is Shiv Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray, a man who two weeks ago was ready to do anything to ensure that the post went to his son, Aditya. It’s a twist even the most-inspired K-serial writer wouldn’t be able to think up.

Anyway, while the leaders of all these respective parties head to Raj Bhavan to finally figure out who gets to take credit for completing the Mumbai metro, one thing is clear — this is not an election the voter is going to forget very soon. Because no matter what arrangement the parties come to at this point, the results of these polls have somehow ensured that every single voter in the state will be unhappy with the result, considering they’ll have to live with some combination of parties they didn’t vote for (and in some cases actively campaigned against).

When the people of Maharashtra walked into voting booths a month ago, they thought there were two options before them — the Congress-NCP or the BJP Shiv-Sena. And everything was fine then; both sides agreed that the other was more corrupt, and voters knew exactly what they were getting. 

Then came the first twist, in the form of the Sena claiming that it wouldn’t support the BJP unless it allowed them to choose a chief minister. Sena party leaders claimed this was promised to them by the BJP as terms of their alliance, and immediately a handful of party activists were seen campaigning for Aditya Thackeray as the next CM. The BJP, meanwhile, retorted with a well-timed “no chance bro” and insisted that Fadnavis would return to power.

Maharashtra was placed under President’s Rule, but voters weren’t left without a show.

Fadnavis did end up returning, for a couple of days at least, before the talks failed, and the Sena backed out of the alliance completely. The state was placed under President’s Rule, but voters weren’t left without a show. The various parties in contention began making allegations of horse-trading, social media broke down the similarities between Aditya Thackeray and Rahul Gandhi, a hefty corruption case was both reinstated and dropped against Ajit Pawar, and news channels continued to come up with the most creative combination of the words “ongoing thrilling saga in Maharashtra”.

Unfortunately, while ensuring that Twitter had something to trend every morning, this giant political mess has also ended up leaving the state’s voters in an odd situation. The ones who voted for the BJP, and spoke extensively about how corrupt the NCP was, were left wishing for Ajit Pawar’s success. The Shiv Sena voters — who were technically voting for the BJP all along — will now have to deal with their two greatest rivals coming into power, the Congress and the NCP. The same goes for both Congress and NCP voters, who insisted that they were fighting an ideological battle against Hindutva, and now have to deal with a CM from the Shiv Sena.

So today, as we in all likelihood watch a man who has never been appointed MLA of any constituency, or even run for a single election, take the post of Maharashtra’s CM, let’s take a moment to think about how fun and random democracy is. Also let’s hope our new CM can sing, because the rivers aren’t going to save themselves.