As Shiv Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray took oath on Thursday and charge of the chief minister’s office on Friday, visuals of both these events went viral on millions of phones all over the country. The media termed this as a new era in Maharashtra’s history but the hard fact behind the headlines is that as the first member of the Thackeray family to occupy any government position, Uddhav Thackeray has a very tough task and a series of challenges ahead of him.
Political challenges: Firstly, the political challenges are tough. An aggressive BJP with 105 members in the house will be waiting to see Uddhav blink and constantly try and destabilise him. Since BJP and Uddhav have worked together not for years but decades, the BJP knows Uddhav’s weaknesses. The BJP also has a large number in the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation which is Uddhav’s home turf and main area of interest. Having the BJP as a political foe is going to be Uddhav’s first major challenge.
The next big political challenge is the trust deficit related to Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party. In 2014, NCP suddenly decided to support the Devendra Fadnavis government from outside to provide political stability in the State. This empowered the BJP to go ahead and form the government in October 2014 without taking Shiv Sena on board and even cutting Sena’s bargaining power. For now, the Sena might enjoy Sharad Pawar’s support but there is no guarantee that this will remain constant in the coming years. To add to this, the Congress Party which has now come on board only to keep the BJP away from power will also constantly keep the pressure on and would want its pound of flesh from time to time. Balancing all these partners and their pushes and pulls will be a tight rope walk.
Financial challenges: On the economic front, Uddhav Thackeray faces several challenges. Maharashtra is now reeling under debt of close to Rs 4 lakh crore. The government coffers have very little money and the State is barely able to afford running the administration. Half of Maharashtra has had excessive rainfall ruining the crops in over close to 70 lakh hectares of land. This has put huge pressure on the government to arrange aid of at least Rs 25,000 per hectare for the farmers who have lost their crops.
The Central government which was releasing aid to Maharashtra very generously till now may now be slowing down the flow of some of the funds as it is known to do with states where non-BJP governments are in power. All this will be challenging to handle for Uddhav.
Personal challenges: The Thackerays have always stayed away from political offices. They have always ruled with the proverbial ‘remote control’ in their hands. Whether it is the municipal corporations that they ruled or whether State government where they have been in power twice (1995 to 99 and 2014 to 2019), they have never taken any office. Now, to learn the ropes of an official position at the age of 59, is going to be the biggest challenge for Uddhav. Whether it is facing the assembly or whether it is actually sitting in the office on the sixth floor at Mantralaya. To start going to the office at Mantralaya every day, day after day and week after week as chief minister is going to be a task for Uddhav Thackeray. He is a man who has always been comfortable with creative activity such as photography and literature and has never attended any office on a regular basis ever in his life. To take up this position now and live this hectic life of the CM of a state like Maharashtra is not going to be easy.
Anybody who has covered politics in Mumbai even for a few years can clearly see that beyond the glamour and the glitter of the chief minister’s office, there are long hours and days full of stress, non-stop work, political challenges and worries. Whether Uddhav Thackeray will eventually succeed in handling all of this remains to be seen in the coming months and years!