Story of coalition governments in Maharashtra, past, present and future

Siddharth Gadkari and Shirish Shinde
Sunday, 24 November 2019

He said, “Sharad Pawar would complete a full circle of coalition governments by overseeing the formation of the Mahavikas Aghadi government. Pawar had formed the first coalition government in 1978 in Maharashtra. The Mahavikas Aghadi is a landmark development in the political career of the NCP chief.”

Pending the outcome of a possible trust vote in the State assembly, the political situation in Maharashtra remains to be in a state of flux. Whoever forms the new government, politics in Maharashtra is all set to change. It will have a long-term effect on the politics in the State.

In the scenario of a coalition government of the three parties, namely – Congress, NCP and Shiv Sena, political observers and senior party leaders are of the view that the three parties, though of divergent ideologies, joined hands to keep the BJP out of power as their own existence is at stake.

Analysing the countours of state politics, city-based political observer Suhas Kulkarni said, “Till date, the state had four major parties – Congress, NCP and BJP, Shiv Sena. Now, the Mahavikas Aghadi has given a new dimension to the state politics. It is purely a political adjustment. In a coalition government, people-centric development will not be the focus.”

He said, “Sharad Pawar would complete a full circle of coalition governments by overseeing the formation of the Mahavikas Aghadi government. Pawar had formed the first coalition government in 1978 in Maharashtra. The Mahavikas Aghadi is a landmark development in the political career of the NCP chief.”

“If the Mahavikas Aghadi forms the government, it will change the face of Maharashtra politics. If this it fails, other parties such as Communist Party, Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi would get space in the state politics. They will play an important role,” he added.

Underlining the compulsions of coming together of Congress-NCP and Shiv Sena, senior Congress leader Ulhas Pawar, said, “Small parties had formed the first coalition government at the Centre In 1977, in which Jan Sangh was a constituent (a right wing party now known as Bharatiya Janata Party). At that time, all parties had only one agenda of isolating Congress (‘Congress Hatav’). In the State, Pawar started coalition politics in 1978 by forming the Progressiv Development Front (PDF).”

In the latest scenario, the Mahavikas Aghadi is unnatural from the ideological point of view. The three parties have an agenda to keep BJP away from power. They don’t have a choice. This would also avoid imposition of a mid-term polls against the background of slowdown, farmers suicides and wet drought, 
he said.

“It is took too much time to form the government because Congress wanted a common minimum programme emphasising on secularism. It is obvious while dealing with Shiv Sena as the saffron party. I don’t think Congress will have any problem considering its ideology as it wants to include a seculare development plan in the common minimum programme,” said Pawar.

In 1977, Congress was defeated in the Lok Sabha polls. In 1978, the State assembly elections were held in Maharashtra. The Congress was split into two groups: the Congress (S) and the Congress (Indira). Sharad Pawar was leading the former. Since no party could secure a majority in the State, these two Congress groups formed the first coalition government in the State. 

Though the Janata Party had won the highest number of seats (99), it was kept away from power by the two erstwhile warring Congress groups: Congress (S) with 69 seats and Congress (I) with 62 seats. 

Vasantdada Patil became the chief minister while a Dalit leader Nashikrao Tirpude became his deputy. However, the first coalition government collapsed within four months. Sharad Pawar had walked out with 44 MLAs and formed a coalition government of the Progressiv Democratic Front, along with the Shetkari Kamgar Paksh, Janata Party, Communist Party, etc. This second coalition government ruled from July 1978 to February 1980. This was a landmark development in the politics of the State. 

Later, the Congress (I) bounced back to power at the Centre. Indira Gandhi started dismissing non-Congress governments in the states by misusing President’s Rule. Soon the state polls were held in Maharashtra, in which the Shiv Sena backed Congress (I). Congress won the elections with a majority. Abdul Rehman Antulay became the chief minister. In 1985, Pawar-led Congress (S) formed the PDF, along with the Janata Party, Shetkari Kamgar Paksh, and BJP and fought state polls against Congress. Sharad Joshi-led Shetkari Sanghatana, whose influence was growing in the State, had thrown its might behind the PDF. Shiv Sena and Datta Samant-led workers’ union had formed a front. 

In these elections, Congress (I) had a slim majority. Pawar, who was then the oppositon leaer, later merged his Congress (S) in Congress (I) in December 1986. This was again a turning point in the politics of the State. 

During this time, Congress was weakening in the backdrop of alleged scams such as the Bofors deal. Later, Rajiv Gandhi made Pawar state’s chief minister in June 1988. This was his second innings as the CM. At the same time, the opposition space was being filled by the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance led by Pramod Mahajan and Gopinath Munde, which was growing strong in the backdrop of the Ram Janmabhoomi agitation.
The state polls held in 1990, the Shiv Sena got 52 seats while the BJP got 42. There combined strength was 94. Congress formed the government with the backing of 33 rebel MLAs and the RPI. Thus, the coalition politics stabilised in the State. Later, there was a trumoil in the State politics following bringing down of the Babri Masjid. Also, the Marathwada University was named after Dr Bahasaheb Ambedkar.

In 1995, the Shiv Sena-BJP (138 seats) came to power with support from independent MLAs. This was the first non-Congress government in the State. 

In 1999, Pawar broke away from the Congress and established NCP. This was his second rebellion after 21 years. In the 1999 state elections, NCP and Congress had fought separately. NCP got 58 seats, Congress with 75 seats was the single largest party. Shiv Sena (69) and BJP’s (56) combined strength was 125.

NCP, Congress came together to form a secular government (151 MLAs) with other small parties. Vilasrao Deshmukh became the CM. Both the Congress fought 2004 assembly polls together under Deshmukh’s leadership and won it with Congress (69) and NCP (71). Shiv Sena got 62 and BJP 54 seats. 

Following November 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai, state polls were held in 2009, in which Congress got 82 seats, NCP 62, Shiv Sena 46 and BJP 44. This was the third consecutive victory for the DF government. In 2014, these four major parties fought state elections separately. However, later, Shiv Sena-BJP joined hands to form the government.

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