Remember? When we were all bachchas and our parents ordered us to share an ice cream sandwich — 50-50? Of course, we didn’t do any such thing! We cheated! And took the biggest bite we could, hoping to get more into our mouths than the portion we were asked to pass on! Several brands tried to cash in on the 50-50 concept. I recall a Brittania biscuits pack which dared to name its product 50-50 (1993), hoping to catch students with limited pocket money to pay up and split the bill for the sweet and salty cookie. I wonder how it fared over the years — I never fell for that phony 50-50 pitch. Frankly, it is a doomed formula that has never worked for anybody, as Devendra Fadnavis is discovering in Maharashtra. This is one political marriage which has been brokered by the wrong middleman (not naming which one!). The jhagdas between the BJP and the Shiv Sena were being openly fought over the past several months, even while the two parties were faking a bromance. Come on — it was always about the numbers and had nothing to do with a shared ideology. So why pretend? I am asking my latest BFF Alexa to play an old favourite: “It could have been love… but it’s over now…” and smiling to myself as Mr Fadnavis and the Thackerays squabble. One guy declares there was an understanding in place. The other guy says, “What understanding?” First guy shakes his head and admits he should have taken all the promises made, in writing. Oh-oh… too late, honey. Never heard of a pre-nup? That’s how it’s done aaj kal. No pre-nup, no shaadi. The idea of a pre-nup is in itself pretty cynical. But nobody wants to take chances these days. High profile alliances are primarily about wealth sharing. Same-same as seat sharing. Pre-nups carefully design how the cake gets cut if the marriage collapses. Who gets to keep what — and what happens to the family jewels.
This is what our mature, seasoned and supposedly shrewd politicians are busy haggling over, while we, the people of Maharashtra, wait for them to resolve these issues and get on with running the state — the job we elected them for in the first place. The day Aaditya Thackeray’s team put out the suggestion about him becoming the chief minister of Maharashtra, it was obvious what the Sena’s gameplan was. Don’t forget, they had hired the master strategist Prashant Kishore himself to help seal the deal during this election. And to his credit, Mr Kishore has done a terrific job of positioning the 29-year-old grandson of Balasaheb Thackeray. Convincing a Thackeray to actually stand for an election was challenge number one. Getting Aaditya to carefully pick the urban, cosmopolitan Worli constituency was the next brainwave that paid rich dividends (Aaditya won with an impressive margin). But preparing the voters’ minds to start seriously thinking about the almost 30, third-generation Thackeray in politics as the next
CM was the single-most brilliant touch! An inspired idea was planted surreptitiously in voters’ minds when no such thought previously existed. It worked! Aaditya must have been briefed to demur and say modestly that he was just on the first step of the ladder and had a long way to go before assuming this high office. But he also added he was “100 per cent ready for the job”. However, the subtext remained clear: Maybe it was a little premature to pitch him as the next CM… but hey — surely nobody would mind him becoming the deputy CM right? The power of suggestion, I tell you!
Today, Mr Fadnavis wants to hang on to all the key portfolios and hand out the leftovers to the Shiv Sena. This isn’t flying! There is much talk of “dharma” and “social service” being the most important values cherished by the Sena. Aaditya has also declared his party’s reluctance to take the same old dhamkis and violence route, correctly assessing that the old ways will not work in today’s environment. This is a positive move, which voters will hold him to, in case he and his lieutenants change their mind. Presenting a “new, improved”, tamer, milder Sena is a risky makeover to undertake at this stage, given the brand’s tough USP which has been regularly and aggressively reinforced as and when required.
So… as we all know, the real fight is for control over the Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the humungous money it controls. It is a fight for real estate, that’s it. To hell with ideology, it’s only about the money. As of now, the Shiv Sena has dominated the BMC for decades, and that’s where the real power lies. He who controls the BMC, controls Mumbai. And, indirectly, Maharashtra. With an annual budget running into crores and crores (`30,692 crores in 2019), the BMC is one of the wealthiest civic bodies on earth. That’s one hell of a lot of money to go 50-50 on! The rest of the so-called issues are just hot air — a way to divert attention. While Mr Fadnavis firefights, and seeks orders from his bosses (Amit Shah, primarily), Maharashtra continues to struggle with problems new and ancient. The power, or Pawar, tussle to grab control of the state and continue to milk it does not really concern citizens. Whether or not a fresh numbers game is played with the NCP-Congress-Shiv Sena joining forces, buying independents and waiting for defections, voters want to know who will be cleaning up the mess? And how soon? Our coastline is all but gone, our forests are no longer identified as forests, our mangroves are denuded, the shrinking of open spaces and brazen land grabs continue. Do we really care a damn how the portfolios get carved up? Who gets what? Whether it is 15 berths or 17 in the Cabinet? Come on, you chaps. Do what you have to do. We all know 50-50 does not fly. Sharing the chief ministership (two and a half years each) is the worst idea ever. It cannot work in the long term. So, you can pose for all the photo-ops in the world, with turbans, phetas, topis or crowns. We remain skeptical. Prove us wrong! It will be good for Maharashtra if that happens. That is, if you are thinking of the welfare of Maharashtra in the first place. And yes, do engage a competent divorce lawyer from now itself: Why take a chance? Till then... tamasha dekho... ghodey becho.