After a week-long drama that unfolded in Maharashtra, Uddhav Thackeray threw in the towel on Wednesday, accepting that he doesn’t have the numbers in the assembly. Rebel Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde is all set to be the next Maharashtra Chief Minister. In a joint press conference on Thursday, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Devendra Fadnavis said the expansion of the cabinet will be decided upon after further discussions. Fadnavis also said that he himself will not be a part of the cabinet.
Nonetheless, in a deja vu moment, the BJP seems poised to form the government in Maharashtra with the support of the Shinde faction. The BJP and the Shiv Sena had contested as an alliance and won the 2019 state elections, bagging 162 out of 288 seats with a 42% vote share.
Life comes a full circle for Uddhav, who had to resign after completing two-and-a-half years as Chief Minister. Incidentally, the chief ministerial post was a bone of contention between the BJP and the Shiv Sena, and also the reason for their parting ways. The Sena had wanted a rotational CM.
Life comes a full circle for Uddhav, who had to resign after completing two-and-a-half years as Chief Minister. Incidentally, the chief ministerial post was a bone of contention between the BJP and the Shiv Sena, and also the reason for their parting ways.
The Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) was an opportunistic alliance, formed to teach the BJP a lesson and keep it out of power. Like all such previous experiments, this alliance also came to nought as political power couldn’t hold it together.
After 2019’s disastrous attempt to sneak into the power corridor with a 5 am swearing-in, the BJP has made a strong comeback.
The Thackerays would need to rejuvenate the party cadre across the state and convince their supporters that they are the rightful claimants of Balasaheb’s legacy.
Opportunistic Alliances Seldom Succeed
The Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) was an opportunistic alliance, formed to teach the BJP a lesson and keep it out of power. It was an unnatural alliance as well – some even called it ‘unholy’. A hardcore Hindutva party, Sena, joined hands with secular NCP and the Congress, which it had opposed tooth and nail for over two decades.
Like all such previous experiments, this alliance also came to nought as political power couldn’t hold it together. Similar alliances, of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Janata Dal (United) (JD-U) in Bihar (2015), the BJP and the Peoples Democratic Party (2014), the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) (2018), were unable to complete their terms. The foundation itself was shaky.
Fadnavis Makes a Strong Comeback
After 2019’s disastrous attempt to sneak into the power corridor with a 5 am swearing-in, the BJP seems set for a comeback.
Successive victories in the Rajya Sabha and the Maharashtra Legislative Council (MLC) elections, in spite of not having the numbers, also cement Fadnavis’s place in the state unit as a master strategist. The revolt also puts the BJP on a strong footing for the upcoming Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections, which the Thackeray clan has controlled for three decades.
Shinde Does What Bhujbal, Rane and Raj Couldn’t
Shinde, the strongman from Thane, has snatched almost the entire legislative party of the Shiv Sena from under the nose of Thackerays. Nobody in the Sena would have even dared and/or dreamt of achieving this feat.
Similar revolts against Balasaheb met with limited success in the past. But Uddhav is no Balasaheb. The kingmaker became the king, and thus lost moral authority in many ways.
Shinde has played his cards smartly, accusing Uddhav of compromising with the core Hindutva ideology of the Shiv Sena. At the same time, he also invoked Balasaheb’s legacy. Shinde now postures to be the true claimant of this legacy, thus deflecting accusations that all this was done for the sake of power.
Survival Crisis for Thackerays?
Exploiting a loophole in the anti-defection law, the Shinde camp has not merged with any other party and now claims to be the real Sena. He enjoys two-thirds support of MLAs belonging to the Shiv Sena, thus making him eligible to remain the legislature party leader (case in court).
Uddhav now needs to monitor how many office-bearers and party cadre shift their allegiance or loyalty to Shinde after the new government formation.
The BJP, livid with Uddhav for not honouring the agreement way back in 2019, wants to exact maximum revenge. It seems that they will not be content with Uddhav’s resignation but would go for the kill, trying to finish off the political career of the Thackerays.
The war to hold the Sena’s reins now shifts to the streets, the courts and the Election Commission. This could well turn into a long, protracted battle for the control of the Sena. With BMC polls due in the next three months, the Sena can’t risk the freezing of the election symbol (as in the case of Chirag Paswan’s party), or, worse, lose it to Shinde’s camp.
The Thackerays would need to rejuvenate the party cadre across the state and convince their supporters that they are the rightful claimants of Balasaheb’s legacy. For this, they need to slog it out on the ground and move away from Twitter and Facebook politics.
All doors of a rapprochement with the BJP now seem closed.
(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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