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Does Uddhav meet Opposition's search for a leader?

By AMULYA GANGULI
May 05, 2020 10:31 IST
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If Uddhav continues in this mode as a serious-minded, capable leader with his hands firmly on the steering wheel, and succeeds in enabling Maharashtra weather the current storm, there is every possibility of his emergence as a leader who will be seen as someone who is ready to play a larger role, observes Amulya Ganguli.

IMAGE: Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray who has won praise for his calm and efficient handling of the coronavirus crisis in his state.
 

The coronavirus crisis has separated the men from the boys among the chief ministers.

While Mamata Banerjee has failed the test because of the suspicion of fudging casualty figures in West Bengal and Nitish Kumar is at a loss in the matter of dealing with Bihari migrant labourers, Uddhav Thackeray has met the challenge of high rates of infection and deaths in Maharashtra with a measure of coolness fit for a veteran.

Yet, unlike his Bengali and Bihari counterparts, he is a novice and a first-timer who was sought to be unseated by a scheming governor.

But Uddhav remained unflustered, roping in the prime minister for tackling the governor while he focussed on Maharashtra's immediate problem of the coronavirus menace.

His unruffled demeanour and composed handling of a dangerous situation have even pushed the experienced Sharad Pawar into the background although the latter had played a key role in putting the unlikely coalition of a right-winger (the Shiv Sena), a middle-of-the-roader (the Nationalist Congress Party) and a confused Congress into power.

But, now, the 79-year-old guru can watch his 59-year-old chela run India's foremost industrial state which houses the country's financial capital and is also the home of Bollywood like a pro.

While doing so, Uddhav has overseen the maturing of the Shiv Sena from an outfit of roughnecks into a responsible party.

So far, so good.

If Uddhav continues in this mode as a serious-minded, capable leader with his hands firmly on the steering wheel, and succeeds in enabling Maharashtra weather the current storm, there is every possibility of his emergence as a leader who will be seen as someone who is ready to play a larger role.

Since he has succeeded in running an improbable combine by smoothing the jagged ideological edges of Hindutva and secularism, he patently has the calibre of captaining a bigger ship.

It has to be remembered that Uddhav has held the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi together against the machinations of a powerful and ruthless adversary like the BJP which had tried in vain to oust him by a coup fathered by the governor at the crack of dawn.

Since then, the BJP has been ruefully licking its wounds and resorting to the pettiness of locating the International Financial Services Centre in Gujarat rather than in Maharashtra.

But as Uddhav grows in stature, all that the BJP's nominee for replacing him - Devendra Fadnavis -- and his new-found comrade-in-arms, Raj Thackeray -- can do is to wring their hands in frustration.

However, the million dollar question is whether Uddhav will be a part of an alliance at the national level against the BJP.

With Mamata and Nitish having fallen by the wayside, there is no candidate other than Rahul Gandhi who can breathe life into the non-BJP camp.

Between Uddhav and Rahul, the former (and probably future) Congress president is still a work in progress.

His party is trying yet again to prepare him for a leadership role via a video conference with media personal and an interview with a former Reserve Bank governor.

There will undoubtedly be more of the same.

But the Pappu image still haunts Rahul.

In the meantime, Uddhav should be able to firm up his image as a hands-on administrator and a politician who can reach out to others with different viewpoints.

The mahagathbandhan had stumbled last year because it could not find a leader.

Has it now found one in Uddhav ?


Amulya Ganguli is a writer on current affairs.

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The War Against Coronavirus

The War Against Coronavirus