Handling of Covid-19 pandemic creates friction in Uddhav Thackeray govt

Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray during his interaction with the PM. (Source: CMO Maharashtra)
New political alignments, possibly even central rule, could be on the cards in Maharashtra after Congress leader Rahul Gandhi distanced himself and his party from the management of the Covid-19 pandemic in the state.

The Congress is an alliance partner in the government led by the Shiv Sena. Former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan of the Congress had recently remarked that the Maharashtra government was not run by the Maha Vikas Aghadi, but only by the Shiv Sena.

The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the third member of the alliance, could be the reason for the unraveling of the government. Not only did party supremo Sharad Pawar, along with associate Praful Patel, call on the Governor BS Koshiyari, but Patel also defended Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal from attacks by Shiv Sena and Congress leaders, who have been scathing about the lack of help from the railways in helping move migrants to their home states.

On Sunday night, in a series of tweets, Goyal asked Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to provide a list of migrant workers saying his ministry was “ready to provide 125 Shramik Special trains” to the Mumbai-headquartered Central Railway.

Goyal had further said in a tweet, “Since you have said that you have a list ready that is why I am requesting you to please provide all information like from where the train will run, the list of passengers according to the trains, their medical certificate and where the train is to go, to the General Manager of Central Railway within the next hour, so that we can plan the time of trains.”

The implication was that the state government was making it a political issue, without being constructive.

All through the weekend, there was sniping between supporters of the Maharashtra government and the Centre. Senior Sena leader and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut said, addressing Goyal, “Maharashtra government has given you a list of workers who wish to return home. The only request is that the train should reach the station, as announced earlier….The Gorakhpur bound train had reached Odisha,” Raut said on Twitter.

The Congress said the government was “taking migrant workers on a country tour” without providing them food and water.

“You invite people telling — it is going to Japan but you end up taking them to China, without giving them any food and water. The government is taking migrant workers on a country tour. The Modi government has become, by far, the worst, unsuccessful and irresponsible government,” Congress leader Sachin Sawant said.

The only government partner that sided with the central government was the NCP. Praful Patel said in a tweet: “Their (the Modi government’s) efforts should be respected. We appreciate that they are providing trains so that people can reach home.” NCP’s Ajit Pawar is deputy chief minister and finance minister in the state government.

Senior BJP leaders have not ruled out a change in alliances. Clearly they are waiting for the right time to strike and also the manner in which they should bring the government down.

In a house of 288, 144 is the midway mark. The Shiv Sena has 56 MLAs, the BJP has 105, and the NCP has 54. Congress and a host of smaller parties and independents are supporting the Sena. If the NCP withdraws support, the Sena government goes into a minority.

However, with Maharashtra reeling under the pandemic, it is possible that the central government might impose President’s rule.

An earlier attempt by the NCP to form the government by supporting the BJP via Ajit Pawar had failed.

A top BJP leader said: ‘Nothing is likely to happen today or tomorrow. But if there are contradictions in the ruling Maharashtra alliance, what can we do?”

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