A year of Congress triumph and MNS rise:
It was a 'double triumph' for Congress in Maharashtra in 2009
as it not only decimated the BJP-Shiv Sena combine in the Lok Sabha
elections, but also won a third term in the state with its ally
Mumbai: 2009 was a year of
upheavals, controversies, rising and falling stars and fortunes,
disasters and drama for Maharashtra.
The year started
on a sombre note as the effects of the Nov 26 terror attacks were
yet to fully sink in the minds of the people and the government.
Barely three weeks
before the New Year (Jan 1, 2009), Ashok Chavan had replaced
Vilasrao Deshmukh as state chief minister in the political fallout
of the terror attacks which left 166 dead.
Barely had the
state grappled with the change of guard at the helm, the Lok Sabha
elections were announced.
Contrary to all
speculation and wishful thinking by the opposition, the ruling
Democratic Front (DF) helped the Congress stage an impressive
comeback to power at the centre.
Around the same
time, the lone Pakistani terrorist - Mohammed Ajmal Amir alias Kasab
- arrested as the prime accused in the 26/11 carnage, was put on
trial amidst demands from many quarters that he should be summarily
The first phase of
the trial - after eight months - is on the verge of completion now,
but not before its share of controversies.
The first hiccup
started when the state-appointed lawyer, Anjali Waghmare, was
removed even before the trial started, on grounds of professional
lawyer S.G. Abbas Kazmi replaced her and he started in right earnest
- with a bombshell that his client Kasab is a minor, keeping the
seasoned Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam on his toes always.
There were many
more dramatic moments during the course of the most keenly watched
trial in recent history - Kasab crying in court, making demands
ranging from soaps to perfumes, offering a confession of his role in
the 26/11 attacks, etc.
The final drama
came early December - at the fag end of the first phase of the trial
- when Special Judge M. L. Tahilyani sacked Kazmi for improper
conduct before the Special Court, and handed over the reigns to his
assistant. K.P. Pawar.
Kasab has in a
u-turn retracted his earlier confession to the court and maintains
he is not a terrorist and is being falsely implicated by the police
in the attacks.
On March 13, state
Director-General of Police A. N. Roy, whose appointment was marked
with controversies, was removed following a Bombay High Court order.
He was replaced by
S.S. Virk, (who retired Oct 31), but Roy was appointed as DGP for
the state assembly elections during September-October this year.
who first took charge on March 1, 2008, is now once again the acting
DGP and the front-runner for the post.
continued even longer when the state government abruptly removed
Mumbai Police Commissioner Hasan Gafoor and appointed D.
Shivanandhan in his place.
Around that time,
on June 30, United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia
Gandhi inaugurated the country's first bridge in the sea - the Rajiv
Gandhi Bandra Worli Sea Link, a new landmark for the city.
Even as the Lok
Sabha election victory was sinking in, the ugly head of the H1N1
swine-flu virus hit Maharashtra with full force - claiming the first
victim, a 14-year old girl student in Pune, Rida Shaikh, on Aug 3.
In the past five months, the state has notched nearly 225 deaths due
to swine flu - and the figure keeps rising each week - even as the
news plumetted from the front page headlines to briefs.
After all, there
were more urgent issues - like the crucial Maharashtra assembly
elections of Oct 13. Again belying all hopes, the ruling DF combine
of the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party was swept to power in a
Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party was inflicted deeper wounds,
ironically by the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), technically a
part of the opposition.
After injuring the
chances of the saffron alliance in the Lok Sabha elections, the MNS
dug deeper by bagging 13 seats in the assembly elections.
It emerged as the
fifth force in state politics - and is aiming higher. It raised
issues - aggressively and often violently, bringing instant
publicity, much to the discomfiture of the Sena.
There were other
problems for the Sena. Party chief Bal Thackeray's high-profile
daughter-in-law Smita announced this month that she would join the
Congress, even as the party reeled under another loss - the post of
Leader of Opposition to its ally, the BJP.
As the year drew
to a close, the opposition compelled the government to finally table
the Ram Pradhan-V. Balachandran Commission Report on the 26/11
terror attacks before the assembly.
It is widely
believed that there may not be many surprises since parts of the
report have allegedly leaked in the media.
Large parts of
Maharashtra, including Mumbai, received deficient rains. One person
lost his life when he joined a water war in Mumbai last month.
Hopes were raised
mid-November when storm clouds gathered over western Maharashtra,
promising rains, but it was the Cyclone Phyan that left a trail of
deaths and destruction calculated at nearly Rs.2 billion.
Amid the regular
terror alerts, unabated farmland suicides and the demand for a
separate state of Vidarbha intensifying, life however continues as
usual for the 12 crore people of the state.