Uddhav Thackeray has dared Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde to face mid-term elections. After having lost the government and the legislative party control, Uddhav sees real threat of loss of party control and symbol as the fight between the two camps moves to courts and the streets.
With ex-corporators from Thane, Kalyan, and Navi Mumbai joining Shinde in hordes, Uddhav’s rhetorical demand shows nervousness. Thackerays' influence currently seems to be restricted to Mumbai.
There can be mid-term polls only if no party/block is in a position to form a stable government. That is not the case here, Shinde won the trust vote handsomely in the Maharashtra Assembly with 164-99 votes in favour. Uddhav is raising the question of morality and accusing Shinde camp of stabbing him in the back.
By this logic he should have called for mid-term polls when after a mandate for BJP-Sena in 2019, he joined hands with NCP and Congress who had the mandate to sit in the opposition.
Uddhav Thackeray has dared Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde to face mid-term elections.
With ex-corporators from Thane, Kalyan, and Navi Mumbai joining Shinde in hordes, Uddhav’s rhetorical demand shows nervousness.
Uddhav is now heavily relying on the Supreme Court to disqualify his rebels.
The Shinde camp’s next target could be to make a dent in the Sena’s Parliamentary Party.
After losing the legislative party control to Shinde due to a technicality, Uddhav fears loss of 'bow and arrow' symbol if he doesn’t act fast.
Can Supreme Court Bring Solace to Uddhav's Shiv Sena?
From 11 July (Monday), the Supreme Court will hear many cases in this matter relating to disqualification of MLAs, election of Maharashtra Assembly's Speaker, the leader of Shiv Sena Legislature Party, the Governor’s decision to invite Shinde to form government, among other things.
Uddhav is now heavily relying on the Supreme Court to disqualify his rebels, but doesn’t realise that even if all the 40 MLAs from the Shinde camp lose membership, then also the NDA will continue to enjoy comfortable majority of 124-99 in the House.
Then, in the eventual by-polls, the BJP would require only half of these rebels (20/40) to win their seats to reach the majority mark of 144 (124+20) in the assembly. Uddhav’s strategists have got their math wrong since the advent of this crisis.
Aware of the legalities, challenges and uncertainty, the jittery Uddhav camp has changed the party whip in Lok Sabha fearing a repeat of Maharashtra Assembly episode. The party has 22 MPs, 19 in Lok Sabha and 3 in Rajya Sabha. The Shinde camp’s next target could be to make a dent in the Sena’s Parliamentary Party.
While most of the MPs seem to be on Uddhav’s side at the moment, fissures have begun to appear, with an MP demanding that the Sena should support Droupadi Murmu for the post of President. In the Presidential polls, party whip doesn’t apply, it’s a conscience vote, and here I fear there could be some cross voting from the Uddhav camp, if it decides to back Yashwant Sinha, the Opposition's joint candidate.
Can the Thackerays Afford to Lose Shiv Sena Symbol?
Uddhav has been only reactive right from the start. His constant flip-flops show he is a man who may not be in control. After losing the legislative party control to Shinde—due to a technicality, as political party and legislative party are two distinct entities—Uddhav fears loss of 'bow and arrow' symbol if he doesn’t act fast.
Symbol is very important for any party as almost one-third vote a candidate gets is because of it, many people recognise not the candidate but the party symbol. It represents a legacy. Educating people about a new symbol is a tedious task.
In the next three months, municipal elections are due, including the prestigious BMC which the Sena has been holding for three decades. As both camps claim they are the real Shiv Sena and rightful heirs of Balasaheb’s legacy, the fight for the symbol could reach Election Commission’s doors.
In a tedious process which could take months, Commission would need to ascertain who enjoys support of the office bearers of the party along with elected representatives. The EC could even freeze the symbol till the time it makes a decision. Freezing could be a big setback for Uddhav as Shinde camp could still contest on BJP ticket while Sena could get a random new symbol.
Advantage Shinde For Now, Can the Thackerays Fight Back?
Uddhav claims that being his son he is the torchbearer of Balasaheb’s ideology; his faction is the real Shiv Sena. To date, party has not expelled a single rebel except Shinde, banking solely on disqualification. He has not taken any action against people who have stabbed him in the back as he claims. Since they have not been suspended, they are still part of the Sena, and continue to be Shiv Sainiks—whether real or fake is to be decided by the courts and the Election Commission.
Uddhav is no Balasaheb, he needs to aggressively hit the streets with son Aditya, reach out to Shiv Sainiks, invoke Balasaheb’s legacy, reignite emotional connect with the people of Maharashtra, and brand the Shinde faction as traitors to keep the party control with Thackeray clan.
It is advantage Shinde camp right now, and father-son duo would need to prove their mettle.
(The author is an independent political commentator and can be reached at @politicalbaaba. This is an opinion piece. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)