Recently while campaigning for Bihar Elections, Sharad Yadav made a controversial remark about ‘throwing Rahul Gandhi’ into the Ganges. While his remark may simply have been a ruse to draw attention, there does exist a valid case for dumping all the current Maharashtra politicians into the Arabian sea.
Without that, there can be no fresh beginning. Since Ashok Chavan’s offer to resign over the Adarsh Housing Society scam, the guessing game for the next Chief Minister has already begun, similar to the speculation that was rife when Vilasrao Desmuskh was removed after 26/11 Mumbai attack. Given that multiple relatives of Ashok Chavan have been found to have received allotment of the multi-crore flats in the Adarsh Housing Society, which was cleared in the name of Kargill widows and war heros, his continuation as CM, seems highly untenable. The choices though among the present pool of Maharashtra politicians are horrifying. The usual names of Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sushil Kumar Shinde, Nararyan Rane etc. are doing the rounds, but all of them are part of a discredited lot. It is not just the ruling party that faces such a predicament, its alliance partner NCP is no better and neither is the opposition of Shiv Sena, BJP and MNS. It seems as if the entire polity of Maharashtra has been vitiated. Overdose of money, fame and crime reek from every pore of state politicians, resulting in bad governance, mismanagement and Corruption. Wealth accumulation seems to be their only goal. Behind the public facade of political rivalry, the real race is for money. This last decade and a half has seen a curious game of Musical Chairs being played amongst its 5 ex-Chief Ministers , 2 ex-Depty Chief Ministers and the current CM and Dy CM. Roller coaster rides of some of the key players are detailed below:-
Vilasrao Deshmukh(Congress): CM from 1999-2003, was replaced by Sushil Kumar Sihinde in January 2003 –> Again become CM after 2004 elections replacing Shinde –> had to resign after 26/11 attacks in 2008, was replaced by Ashok Chavan –> rehabilitated into Union Cabinet in May 2009 as Minister for Heavy Industries.
Sushil Kumar Shinde(Congress): CM briefly between January 2003 – November 2004, replacing Vilasrao Deshmukh –> Won the elections but was replaced by Vilasrao Deshmukh again, and was packed up as Governor of Andhra Pradesh –> inducted into Union Cabinet as Minster for Power in 2006.
Narayan Rane(Congress, ex-Shiv Sena): CM for a brief period in between February – October 1999 from Shiv Sena, lost Elections in 1999. Quit Sena and joined Congress in 2005 and became minister in the state cabinet since then
Chagan Bhujbal(NCP,ex-Shiv Sena): Deputy Chief Minister October 1999 – December 2003 –> quit on account of Telgi Scam –> reinducted as Deputy CM in December 2008 replacing R.R. Patil
R R Patil(NCP,ex-Congress): Deputy Chief Minister October 2004 – December 2008 –> had to resign after 26/11 attack –> rehabilitated as State Home Minister in October 2009
Towering above everyone else there is Sharad Pawar, who formed NCP in June 1999 after quitting Congress over Sonia Gandhi’s foreigner status, yet had no qualms aligning with Congress in the state (1999 onwards) and at the centre (2004 onwards) for power sharing. Besides being the overworked Union Minister for Agriculture and PDS, he still finds time to be the czar of the multi-billion Cricket Industry and the NCP President. He has diverse business interests, majority of which are undisclosed. Closely linked to him is Praful Patel, a businessman turned politician who is currently the Minister of state for Civil Aviation in the Union Cabinet. To give him company there is another businessman turned politician of the Congress party, Murli Deora, who is the Union Cabinet Minister for Petroleum and Natural gas since 2006. None of them however can overshadow Suresh Kalmadi who outshone everyone in the just concluded Common Wealth Games.
The opposition ranks are equally discredited and insipid. The principal opposition party, Shiv Sena formed on narrow, regional parochialism and Hindu right wing ideology is on the decline due to an overage patriarch and the third term out of power. Its writ though still runs large among Businessmen and Film fraternity, whom they armtwist with the threat of violence. Matching them step for step and exceeding in venality is its new off shoot MNS. This new breed of politicians is even more brazen and intolerant. The BJP has long been reduced to being an appendage of the Shiv Sena and is incapable of independent action.
On closer scrutiny three prominent trends in Maharashtra politics stand out:-
1. All major political parties are controlled by ‘remote control’. In case of Congress it is true nationally, yet the vagaries of changes in Maharashtra have surpassed their own standards. For NCP, the keys to power are securely kept with Sharad Pawar and his confidante Praful Patel.They may be Union Ministers but their heart still lies in Maharashtra. Balasaheb Thakrey of Shiv Sena has always prided himself for being above the fray. In his hey days, he nominated Manohar Joshi to be the Chief Minister only to be replace him with Narayan Rane towards the fag end of his term. BJP’s remote control used to be with Pramod Mahajan till he was alive, after that it has lost relevance. The politics of extra constitutional authority has often brought in power without accountability leading to more rapid degeneration.
2. Another salient characteristic of Maharashtra politicians is their close association with business community. Mumbai being the business capital of India, most politicians have overt business interests in Sugar, Real Estate, Education or Hospitality besides covert involvement in crime syndicates or illicit businesses. This has created strong vested interests and fueled Corruption at all levels.
3.Whenever someone gets discredited in the public eye or is named in a scam, he is shunted out for a brief period of time, only to return back either in the state or the centre, after the public gaze shifts on to some one else.
There is little hope for Maharashtra with the current batch of politicians. @Chetan_Bhagat has a point when he suggests that may be its time for Rahul Gandhi to try his hand at being the interim Maharashtra CM before he ascends the throne at Delhi.