In the country’s first-ever day-night pink ball Test, fast bowlers Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, and Mohamed Shami claimed all 20 wickets as Kohli & Co made mincemeat of hapless Bangladesh at Eden Gardens.
This had never happened before in India’s 87-year-old history of Test cricket and seemed virtually impossible on home pitches where spin bowlers have thrived for decades.
Even as India’s pace trio was running through the Bangladesh batting like a hot knife through butter, in Mumbai, formation of the state government was witnessing such diabolical twists and turns that even the most accomplished suspense writer would have lapsed into an existential crisis.
Threats, stings, betrayals, and double-crosses – not to mention a full-blown family melodrama – were played out over three frenzied days, which had more thrills and spills than the World Cup final this year, decided over a Super Over.
In hindsight, how Maharashtra’s new government was formed was the more sensational of the two events. Over the past year or so, India’s fast bowlers have produced regular evidence of becoming a major force collectively. For the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress to form a coalition seemed impossible.
Canny and inscrutable even when the game seemed lost, Sharad Pawar was clearly the lynchpin of this remarkable outcome, but Uddhav Thackeray’s role is no less fascinating. While he had the most to gain in revolting against the BJP, Uddhav also had most to lose.
Breaking a 30-year alliance was fraught with huge risk. His party was losing a share of power in the state, a place in the cabinet and most importantly, stoking the wrath of the most powerful political entities in the country.
Unlike his father, Uddhav is taciturn. He has neither the same fiery oratory nor charisma, often giving the impression that he would rather be pursuing his hobby, photography. Through the past month, though, he’s shown a core of steel. Apart from eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation with the BJP, Uddhav’s revealed excellent organisational skill to hold his restive flock together, finally meshing his party’s ideology into a common minimum program to which the allies would agree.
Nonetheless, most coalitions in politics have a perilous existence, even with broadly similar beliefs e.g Bihar, Karnataka. When there are three parties involved with not too much to separate them in terms of vote share, but a heck of a lot in terms of ideology, the mortality risk is that much greater.
Celebrations at Shivaji Park last evening, when Uddhav Thackeray was sworn in as chief minister, were high-pitched, marked by bonhomie between foes-turned-friends. But everybody knows that the path ahead will be like walking on egg shells and sleeping on nails for survival.
Scepticism whether the coalition will last is inevitable considering the contradictions between the three parties, more so the Shiv Sena vis-a-vis the NCP and Congress. And yet there is the slender opportunity to break stereotypes if good governance becomes the purpose of coming together, rather than political exigency to just survive for the time being.
The Common Minimum Program (CMP) suggests a lot of thought and negotiation has gone into ironing out wrinkles between the parties.
On paper, it is an excellent document with something in it for everyone. But unless the CMP leads to meaningful action on the ground, the purpose can get lost – like Sab Ka Saath, Sab Ka Vikaas – in the abyss of empty rhetoric.
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