New Delhi/Mumbai: Now that the immediate political future of Maharashtra appears relatively more certain – with the Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party and Congress alliance set to form the government, helped by the Supreme Court’s order upholding constitution in letter and spirit – newspapers took the opportunity to take stock of what transpired in the last few days.
The Bharatiya Janata Party and Ajit Pawar’s midnight coup, leading to the pre-dawn lifting of president’s rule to pave the way for Devendra Fadnavis being sworn in as chief minister with Ajit – supported by an uncertain number of NCP MLAs – as his deputy, has come in for some sharp criticism.
Here is a look at what some of the editorials published today had to say.
The Hindu…In a scathing editorial, the Chennai-headquartered paper said that contrary to Fadnavis’s claim, there is no “grace” in his exit. “There is no grace in Mr. Fadnavis’s exit; only relief that the nation has been spared more ugly spectacles,” The Hindu wrote.
Referring to the BJP’s extraordinary move to attempt to grab power even without the requisite support by subverting rules and misusing constitutional positions, the paper wrote, “The tactics the BJP employed to seize power in the State were breathtaking in their insolence, though not entirely unprecedented. The Governor used his discretion in a blatantly partisan manner to foist a government based on dubious claims of numbers, while denying the opportunity to the coalition. The Centre, scripting and acting out the drama, rushed through the procedure to withdraw President’s rule — all done in a cloak-and-dagger manner.”
It also said that the saffron party’s attempt would be remembered as a ‘dispiriting episode’ in our democracy. The paper sought some solace in the Supreme Court’s handling of the matter, but also pointed out that the sequence of events which led to the early morning swearing in need to be adjudicated upon by the court.
Given the frequent misuse of the authority of the governor, The Hindu has called for a rethink and clear definition of the boundaries of the governor’s use of discretion when it comes to inviting a party to form the government.
The Indian Express …The English daily wrote that Ajit Pawar’s decision to switch sides again – back to the NCP – and the Supreme Court’s order of a floor test within 24 hours outdid the BJP on two fronts.
“In Maharashtra, the BJP was both outplayed by its rivals in the bareknuckled political game it so enjoys, and snubbed for its apparent constitutional transgressions by the umpire, the apex court,” The Indian Express wrote.
It said that the “sorry saga” of the last few days requires “greater reckoning” and “more accountability” from all the institutions and authorities “that colluded in undermining the constitutional rules of the game, in letter and spirit”, referring to the BJP’s attempt to form the government without numbers and with assistance from the governor.
The Indian Express took the view that the prime minister’s decision to invoke extraordinary powers to revoke president’s rule without the approval of the cabinet was “a tawdry image and a taint”.
It said that the BJP, a party elected with overwhelming mandates in the last five years and on the back of promise to change the old systems, “has been strikingly reckless in its own treatment of political norms and institutions”.
While it said that the charge of “unrealistic” and “opportunistic” alliance making can be levelled against all political parties involved in Maharashtra, “the responsibility for playing fast and loose with the Constitution rests with the BJP”.
The Telegraph…The paper headquartered in Kolkata is not known to mince its words when criticising the BJP. In today’s editorial, it notes that “the BJP has a formidable record when it comes to prioritising power over principle”.
The Telegraph recounted BJP’s attempts to seize power with limited mandates in Karnataka, Goa, Manipur and Meghalaya in the last five years.
“The mandate of the people, evidently, is not something that has bothered the political fraternity when it comes to tasting power,” it wrote.
It also said that not only the “letter” but also the “spirit” of the constitution is at stake given the increasing violence against minorities and the BJP’s attempts to pass the discriminatory citizenship amendment bill which exclusively shuts the door for Muslim refugees from neighbouring countries.
The Times of India …While the largest selling English daily in India is not known for taking on the establishment, it reserved some stern words for the BJP’s attempt at forming the government in Maharashtra.
It said that the “secretive swearing in of Fadnavis and Pawar” has brought into an “unnecessary controversy” three public offices – the Maharashtra governor, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
“BJP will want to reassess the utility of such myopic power grab exercises when numbers clearly are not in its favour,” the Times of India wrote.
It also said that since the BJP’s successes in Manipur and Goa in pulling off similar coups, the opposition has been able to pull up its game. The English daily said that this was evident in Maharashtra given how quickly the Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP alliance was able to put together a united front, a strong legal fight and manage optics by parading MLAs in front of TV cameras.
Marathi media…Marathi papers in Maharashtra today have chosen colourful and creative headlines to describe the political drama in the state. While the respective party mouthpieces and party-run newspapers have strictly towed a party line, other independent, established papers have tried a “balanced take” at the political drama that unfolded in the state on November 26.
Saamna …The Shiv Sena mouthpiece went full-throttle against Fadnavis and the BJP for the mess that the state has been in since the election results were declared on October 24.
The newspaper, run by senior Sena leader Sanjay Raut, in its editorial has said, “With Ajit Pawar’s support, Devendra Fadnavis wanted to run this government for five years. But the moment Pawar withdrew his support, the government collapsed in a matter of a meagre 72 hours. Finally, curtains have been drawn over the corrupt and unethical government.”Raut has been tirelessly attacking the BJP, specifically Fadnavis and BJP president Amit Shah, through the mouthpiece’s editorials. Even when the Sena and the BJP were in a pre-poll alliance, several pieces were published directly criticising the BJP’s policies and party leaders.
Tarun Bharat…Interestingly, the state-based pro-RSS newspaper Tarun Bharat too took a jibe at Fadnavis and called the political turns Fadnavis’s personal humiliation.
The editorial piece, titled ‘Fadnavis’s Humiliation’ says that the formation of ‘Maha Vikas Aghadi’s’ government in the state is a direct defeat of the BJP.
The edit piece states that this failure to form a government in the state will have a direct impact on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Shah and Fadnavis. “BJP has been invoking flowery terms like ‘parties with a difference’ and ‘power game’ to justify its reasons to form an alliance with Ajit Pawar. But the strategy has finally boomeranged.”
The newspaper has also praised Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray and his ways of handling his party. “If the vision is clear, parties with different ideologies can run a government. Atal Bihari Vajpayee ran a Khichadi government with 24 parties, Thackeray will manage it too,” the editorial reads.
Loksatta …The Indian Express group’s Loksatta newspaper dedicated four full columns on the front page to report on the events as they unfolded on November 26. Uddhav Thackeray was the primary focus of these articles. Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar’s resignation too have been reported on Page 1 under the headline: “Three Days Drama”.
On page 2, the newspaper has questioned BJP’s overconfidence and also raised questions about party leader Bhupendra Yadav’s credentials. The BJP’s Rajya Sabha member from Rajasthan, Yadav is considered to be a close and trusted aide of Amit Shah. Yadav was sent to Mumbai on a special task to prevent Sena, Congress and NCP from forming an alliance. Since the three parties have finally succeeded, Loksatta’s coverage questions if the BJP made a big mistake by relying on Yadav.
A short piece on Fadnavis as a shortest-lived chief minister is also reported in today’s Loksatta. The paper says, in 1963, after Congress leader and then Maharashtra’s chief minister Marotrao Kannamwar’s death, P.K. Sawant was anointed the state’s chief minister. But his government lasted for a period of just nine days.
Maharashtra Times …The Times group’s Maharashtra Times has restricted all its pieces to mere reporting, refusing to editorialise its articles. “Government falls in a mere four days,” reads the headline of page 1 piece. The newspaper today has dedicated four pages for several stories on the political developments. But most of these reports have focused on the Sena, Congress and NCP. It has largely remained silent on the political blunders committed by the BJP.
Lokmat …Pro-Congress newspaper Lokmat has speculated if Thackeray will contest from Shivdi or Mahim legislative seats. At both constituencies, Sena has a stronghold. The newspaper has also speculated that Thackeray might also choose a “safer route” by getting elected as a legislative council member. Thackeray, who will be sworn in as a chief minister on November 28 will be an unelected chief minister of the state and he will have to be elected as a legislative member within six months period.
Sakal…Sakal, NCP’s mouthpiece, has an emotional piece on Ajit Pawar and has claimed that he finally chose family love over the love for power. Another piece detailing Sharad Pawar’s role in this election has been reported on page 1 of the newspaper.
Courtesy The wire..