The Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government that had stepped into 2020 on an uncertain note, ruffled by ideological differences between its three partners, seems to have been able to uphold a united face amid the COVID-19 outbreak. While political analysts have praised Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray for emerging as a sober face in the fight against the outbreak, leaders from the NCP, including Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and Health Minister Rajesh Tope, and the Congress too have received accolades for ensuring that all are pulling in the same direction, without cutting or undermining each other.
“They (MVA leaders) realise that this outbreak is a big issue and they have to be united to fight this. All of them are experienced leaders and are behaving like a statesman. Thackeray has been handling the situation as a mature and experienced leader and has been able to take everyone along,” political analyst Pratap Asbe said.
With 153 novel coronavirus positive cases, 23 reported Friday, Maharashtra has been hit the hardest by the outbreak.
As the state government began a graded lockdown, taking increasingly stringent measures, a Shiv Sena minister said, Thackeray had coordinated with all his allies and took everyone aboard in the decision-making process. Even during the Budget session of the state Assembly, which was underway when COVID-19 began rearing its head in Maharashtra, Thackeray had held several meetings on the crisis. “In one of the meetings, Thackeray spoke to the ministers about the seriousness of coronavirus outbreak and how the health infrastructure in the state was inadequate to deal with an outbreak similar to the one in UK or Italy. He asked the guardian ministers (of each district) to focus on creating awareness among the people in their respective districts,” the Sena minister said. The Assembly session eventually was short terminated on March 14.
As the number of COVID-19 positive patients went up in the state, all options, including lockdown, were discussed in a cabinet meeting held last week. “The senior leaders of the two parties (Congress and NCP) were kept in the loop in the entire decision-making process,” said another minister. The minister added Thackeray also involved senior ministers of the NCP and Congress in meetings held with the state administration.
“When the number of coronavirus-afflicted patients started going up, ministers of all the departments concerned pitched in to make preparations to fight over the last few days,” the minister added.
Interestingly, while health minister Rajesh Tope had disagreed with the chief minister on the timing of the lockdown Tope had wanted to impose it much earlier the NCP leader had refrained from crossing swords with Thackeray in the public. Disagreements were aired only behind closed doors, sources said.
Finance minister Ajit Pawar, often accused of trying to undermine the Congress in their previous coalition government in the state, has also been seen to be playing a supportive role. NCP chief Sharad Pawar, meanwhile, has refrained from issuing any public directives to the government.
“This is an unprecedented challenge in front of the state and everyone has to come together to fight it. There is no point of playing or discussing politics at this point. This government is committed to the welfare of the people of the state and we, as before, stand united. There is no question of us being disjointed or being at variance with each other,” NCP leader and minority affairs minister Nawab Malik said.
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