When people switched off their TV sets Friday night, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray was to be the next Maharashtra chief minister. Ajit Pawar, the NCP leader and nephew of party chief Sharad Pawar, was to be deputy chief minister. He sworn in as the deputy chief minister but Devendra Fadnavis replaced Uddhav Thackeray as the chief minister.
The news of Devendra Fadnavis taking oath with Ajit Pawar came as nothing but a political earthquake in Maharashtra. The political earthquake that shook Maharashtra and most particularly Uddhav Thackeray, who walked many extra miles to soothe the political nerves of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who was hesitant in joining hands with an overtly Hindutva party.
The question is when did the script, written so arduously by Uddhav Thackeray and Co., and sold to a reluctant Sonia Gandhi in association with Sharad Pawar, it appeared so the least, change?
Two theories are existing:
One, Ajit Pawar fled with the letter of support. It is being said that when the Pawars were in discussion with the Shiv Sena and the Congress leaders in Mumbai on Friday evening giving final shape to the common minimum programme - the agreeable pact for governance - the letter of support listing the names of the newly elected MLAs of the NCP was with Ajit Pawar.
Some of the people in the know of things are saying in hushed voices that Ajit Pawar used the same letter to turn the story on its head. The letter meant for the three-party alliance was allegedly used to support a Fadnavis-led government on Saturday morning.
The presence of Ajit Pawar at the late Friday evening meeting of the three parties was confirmed by Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut. He said Ajit Pawar was at the meeting to finalise the common minimum programme but he was not "looking into our eyes" during talks and then he suddenly left.
But hold on. Before you jump onto any conclusion "convicting" Ajit Pawar for the "Saturday morning coup", you must take into account what NCP "sources" told news agency ANI. The news agency quoted unnamed sources as saying that nothing happens in the NCP without the approval of Sharad Pawar. "He is the leader of the party," the sources asserted.
The reports of rivalry between Sharad Pawar and Ajit Pawar are not new. Moreover, Ajit Pawar is being probed by the Enforcement Directorate in connection with an alleged corruption case. Many have pointed to this probe for the about-turn taken by Ajit Pawar, conceding that he actually revolted against Sharad Pawar, who took to Twitter to dissociate himself from the decision of forming a government with the BJP.
Now, over to second theory:
Two sudden and little unexpected - at that point of time - developments took place earlier this week. Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised Sharad Pawar and his party on the occasion of 250th session of the Rajya Sabha. By that time, the news had been "leaked" that Sharad Pawar would be meeting PM Modi "to discuss the issues of farmers".
While Sharad Pawar and Narendra Modi were still in the middle of talks, reports came that Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who was at the time replying to the questions on internal security in the Rajya Sabha was called to the prime minister’s chamber. Soon we saw the Rajya Sabha was adjourned and Amit Shah headed towards PM Modi’s chamber in Parliament building. Adjournment of the Rajya Sabha might have been a coincidence. Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was also called in during the meeting.
PM Modi and Amit Shah held separate meeting after the Pawar-Modi meet that day. This had led to speculation that some agreement might have been reached between Pawar and Modi. It was also said that the NCP might get something at the Centre in bargain. Union minister and Maharashtra politician Ramdas Athawale welcomed NCP in the NDA asking its leader to hold an important portfolio in the government.
Pawar and Modi are known to have great personal equation despite the recent bickering during the Maharashtra election campaign. PM Modi has publicly praised Pawar as his political guru. Both are relentless politicians. Springing surprise is what is common to both Sharad Pawar and Narendra Modi.
This Saturday morning coup perfectly fits their style of politics. After all, only a few days ago, Sanjay Raut had said, "It will take ages to have a full measure of Sharad Pawar."