In 'Shiv Sena vs Uddhav Thackeray' Battle, BJP Sees a Chance To Get Even
Amidst high octane Shinde-Thackeray political drama in Maharashtra, BJP has four options to get back at Shiv Sena.
The Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government is on the verge of collapse after a big rebellion in Shiv Sena ranks stunned the top leadership. The setbacks in Rajya Sabha and MLC polls exposed the chinks in the alliance which have now been accentuated by threat of a split in Shiv Sena led by senior leader Eknath Shinde.
Shinde, along with 35 MLAs of Shiv Sena, has been reportedly packed in a resort in Gujarat. Shinde has demanded that Uddhav Thackeray break ties with Congress and NCP, install a BJP government led by Devendra Fadnavis and make him the Deputy CM. They have moved to Guwahati from Surat as per reports.
Is It Uddhav Thackeray Versus the 'Original' Sena?
Uddhav’s inaccessibility, his son Aditya’s meddling in affairs of senior leaders’ ministries, and his diverting from its core Hindutva ideology has been cited as the reasons for the uprising in Sena.
While Uddhav formed government with ideologically opposite so called secular parties, the cadre is now confused as to the positioning of Sena. Is it a hardcore Hindutva party or a secular party? How can it leave its niche plank just for the sake of power?
Uddhav is seen as power hungry, sacrificing Sena’s legacy to satisfy his ego and settle personal scores with Fadnavis. Many MLAs fear they could lose elections whenever they are held, as NCP is growing stronger at their expense.
The handing over of baton to Aditya has also not gone done well with senior leaders as he is considered a junior in politics. Uddhav Thackeray is fighting a battle of his life. While he needs to ensure the continuity of the government, he has to also ensure Sena doesn’t formally split and the splinter group led by Shinde doesn’t claim to be the original Sena (2/3rd MLAs).
Since Shinde has invoked Balasaheb’s name and ideology in his demands to Uddhav, the Thackeray clan also needs to ensure he and Aditya remain the rightful claimants of Balasaheb’s legacy. With relations with saffron party further soured since 2019, chances of patch up are very remote.
What Will the BJP Do in Maharashtra Now?
BJP has been adopting a cautious approach and claiming it has nothing to do with this rebellion, as it’s an internal matter of Shiv Sena.
The party has been itching to get back at Sena after Uddhav’s unrealistic demands and desire of becoming Chief Minister led to installation of a non-BJP government even after NDA won the elections hands down.
1. Formal split in Sena
For a formal split in the party, Eknath would require the support of 37 MLAs. He is dangerously close as per claims made. Not more than 20-21 MLAs are with Uddhav Thackeray at the moment as per reports.
As soon as Shinde manages to cobble 37 MLAs on his side, then the rebels could approach the Speaker to recognise them as a separate group in the assembly.
The party can then approach the Governor with support of these 37 MLAs calling for a no-confidence vote against Uddhav claiming Sena doesn’t enjoy a majority in the House.
This could be legally challenged by the Sena in courts delaying the priocess. The Deputy Speaker (there is no Speaker currently) could also delay the process of recognising Shinde group.
2. Resignation by rebel MLAs
If Shinde is not able to get 2/3rd MLAs on his side, BJP could convince these rebels to resign on the lines of MP and Karnataka (Operation Kamala). These MLAs could face disqualification if they vote against Sena in a no confidence motion.
Once they resign, the house strength would reduce, so would the majority threshold required. Currently in a house of 287, 144 is the majority mark.
2 jailed MLAs of NCP have been denied voting rights in both Rajya Sabha and MLC polls. This brings down the house strength to 285 and majority to 143.
BJP received 123 first preference votes in Rajya Sabha Polls and 133 in MLC Polls with some cross voting. If these 35 MLAs resign, then house strength reduces to 250 (285-35) and MVA govt. reduces to a minority, helping BJP prove a majority after MVA govt. falls.
3. President’s Rule in Maharashtra
Many rebel MLAs may not be convinced about resigning or getting disqualified for risk of re-elections. More than two years of legislature tenure is still remaining. Who would want to go and face public before the term ends?
There is also no guarantee that they will win against a combined MVA. Some of these MLAs could lose in by-polls given the arithmetic of Sena-NCP-INC.
In such a scenario, amidst a high-voltage political drama, the Centre can bring Maharashtra under the President’s rule citing a constitutional breakdown in the wake of a rebellion in the ruling MVA. This could be challenged legally in courts.
This could give BJP some time to cobble the numbers to form a government with the help of independents, smaller parties and rebels from NCP and INC as well.
4. Early Polls
The BJP could also recommend the Governor to go for early elections. If the party is confident of getting a majority by fielding rebel MLAs and forming alliance with small parties, then it could prefer early polls and start with a fresh slate. This approach has a low probability.
In fact, this could be the strategy of Uddhav to deny BJP and Fadnavis the CM chair. He has called for a cabinet meeting tomorrow.
Hectic parleys and drama are still to unfold in Maharashtra. Things look bleak for MVA nevertheless.
(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.)
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