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Relief for Shinde, Lessons for Uddhav: What Next in Maharashtra Post SC Verdict?

How is the SC verdict on the June 2022 Maharashtra political crisis likely to impact the dynamics on ground?

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Over 11 months after the fall of the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, the Supreme Court, on Thursday, 11 May, while hearing petitions challenging the decision of then Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari to call for a trust vote and the swearing-in of Eknath Shinde as the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, said that Koshyari's call for a floor test was wrong.

"In the present case, the governor did not have any objective material to indicate the government had lost confidence…so his exercise was not legal…” the Supreme Court said.

In June 2022, Thackeray resigned as the Chief Minister of Maharashtra after a split within the Shiv Sena which was engineered by several rebel party MLAs including Shinde. This after the apex court itself refused to stay the then Governor's call for the trust vote.

Thackeray's resignation then paved the way for a change in the state government with Eknath Shinde taking over as the CM with support from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Here's how the apex court's verdict is likely to impact the political dynamics in Maharashtra:

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Relief For Eknath Shinde

The apex court's refusal to restore status quo, came as a relief for Shinde, who himself was on the list of 16 MLAs facing disqualification for allegedly violating the tenth schedule of the Indian constitution.

While a total of 40 MLAs had defected from the Shiv Sena, the disqualification was sought against the 16 MLAs who were the first ones to go incommunicado.

As per the judgement, the speaker must decide disqualification petitions. The incumbent speaker of Maharashtra Assembly — Rahul Narwekar — is a member of the BJP and hence, there are almost negligible chances of him disqualifying these MLAs and disturb the numbers of the Shinde-Fadnavis government.

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Lesson for Uddhav Thackeray

Earlier in April, NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, while speaking to a local Marathi channel said that Thackeray resigned as the CM in June 2022 without consulting the alliance partners.

"If someone takes the decision to resign, he has the right. But the other partners in the alliance should have been consulted. Taking decisions without discussion has consequences. The fact that there was no discussion at that time cannot be denied," Pawar said.

The top court's judgement stating that status quo could've been restored had Thackeray not resigned, comes as a lesson for him to trust his allies. Pawar, in some ways, stands vindicated.

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A Moral Victory for MVA

While on the face of it, the judgement does give the Uddhav Thackeray camp a moral victory by ruling that the then Governor was not justified in calling upon Thackeray for a floor test, it does little to alter the power dynamics on ground.

This, however, will be a big moral boost for the MVA alliance if they decide to contest the 2024 Lok Sabha and Assembly elections together.

Reacting to the verdict, Thackeray said that the CM Shinde and deputy CM Fadnavis should resign if they have any morals left and should face elections.

"If the current Maharashtra Chief Minister and deputy Chief Minister have any ethics, then they should resign," he said.

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