There’s an old saying. A photograph is worth more than a thousand words. I would like to draw your attention to some such pictures—National Congress Party (NCP) president Sharad Pawar sitting in a chair and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray bowing with respect; Supriya Sule welcoming the legislators, hugging Aaditya Thackeray and Ajit Pawar in Vidhan Sabha Annexe; Devendra Fadnavis announcing his resignation within 80 hours of swearing-in as the chief minister for the second time; the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson confident of proving their majority in the House just before their government collapsed. And, after all that, a picture of new CM Uddhav Thackeray prostrated before the public. You can even find many contradiction in these pictures. Each image has a meaning and a series of miseries and apprehensions attached to it. The politics of Maharashtra has created an entire book of lessons for all.

Let’s first talk about the BJP high command. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah have removed all masks of politics in the last six years. They won most of the elections and wherever they couldn’t win they turned the table in their party’s favour by hook or by crook. Why go far? Like Maharashtra, Haryana too voted for a hung assembly. When did Dushyant Chautala, the die-hard critic of the BJP become its friend—nobody could guess. In Maharashtra, the Congress and the NCP were working hard to prepare a joint programme with the Shiv Sena when a tweet completely blew them. Rubbing their eyes they found that Fadnavis was being congratulated on becoming the Maharashtra chief minister for the second time. This time, Ajit Pawar was playing the role of Fadnavis’s friend. Earlier, the BJP had successfully experimented with this trick in Goa, Bihar, Haryana and Manipur.

For Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thackeray, this was absolutely unexpected, but they remained unflinching in their approach. Within 24 hours, it was abundantly clear that the real and the only leader of the NCP is Sharad Pawar. The Maratha satrap once again proved that he is unparalleled as far as the grass-root level fight is concerned. Now that Thackeray has taken oath as the chief minister, the old guard of the BJP must be feeling that they should have changed their old strategy well in time. It’s clear that the saffron party will have to face some uncomfortable questions. For example, Jharkhand is going through the assembly elections at present. Will the events in Mumbai have an impact there? Almost immediately after that Bihar and Delhi will also witness assembly elections. Although JD(U) is part of the NDA, in the last assembly elections it had refused to ally with the BJP. Won’t they now try to prove their indispensability more? In politics, “indispensability" means being more able to bargain.

Now, we come to the stalwarts of Maha Vikas Aghadi. A small victory comes as a great relief after constant defeats. There is an atmosphere of joy and enthusiasm in the Aghadi camp, but they shouldn’t forget that although the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress leaders may appear to be joining hands, it will be very difficult to bring together their workers on the ground. Thackeray will always have to keep in mind the fate H.D. Kumaraswamy met with in the neighbouring state of Karnataka. This question naturally arises: Given the personality and political standing of the Shiv Sena supremo, will he be able to strike harmony with his new friends? At the press meet after the first cabinet meeting, the NCP leader tried to ‘dominate’ him. Was it just a coincidence or a trailer of things to come. The BJP must be noticing it.

Maharashtra has a lesson for the NCP and many other regional parties, too. Every victory has proved to be momentary. Reason? The moment they win, they indulge in power-grabbing politics. The basis of their government becomes not the ideology, but individual interests. By praising themselves and condemning PM Modi, elections can be won, but political power can be stable only when you do something for public welfare.

There’s one lesson for the Congress, too. Despite getting 119 million votes in the last Lok Sabha elections, Rahul Gandhi had refused the post of the party president. Had Gandhi been active as before, he could definitely have hogged a lot of media attention. After Haryana, the voters have again proved in Maharashtra that they want to keep the Opposition alive and strong. But for that to happen, the leaders of responsible political parties will also have to show some will.

Finally, a request to the dignitaries occupying the highest constitutional posts. Before doing anything, please keep in mind that time is staring at you with cold eyes. Men depart, but history keeps taking stock of them till time immemorial.

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan. His Twitter handle is @shekarkahin

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