A new fight started in Maharashtra between Eknath Shinde Vs Uddhav Thackeray and Maharashtra’s ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) alliance found itself in a political crisis after the Urban development minister and top Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde went missing with 25 other Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) on Monday evening. Later it was discovered that they took a chartered flight and are currently staying in a five-star hotel in Surat, Gujarat. Shiv Sena was quick to react to this development by deciding to remove Eknath Shinde as its Legislative party leader.
Leaders of Shiv Sena, the Congress, and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) separately called emergency meetings of their MLAs. NCP chief Sharad Pawar canceled his programs in Delhi to return to Mumbai. Maharashtra BJP president Chandrakant Patil clarified that his party has no connection with the current political developments. Just two days after Shinde shared the stage with Uddhav Thackeray and senior party leaders on the occasion of the 56th anniversary of the Shiv Sena, he has pulled the politics in Maharashtra into rough water.
The crisis was brewing for quite some time. Cracks started to appear after the MVA lost twice to BJP – first in the Rajya Sabha polls and then recently in the Maharashtra Legislative Council polls. To understand the current politics of Maharashtra, we first travel back to 2019 and revisit the political drama that led to the formation of Maha Vikas Aghadi. In the 2019 Maharashtra Assembly elections, the alliance of BJP-Shiv Sena emerged with a clear majority. They together won 161 seats (BJP – 105 and Shiv Sena – 56). The NCP got 54 seats and Congress settled with 44.
Getting more than expected seats, Shiv Sena’s political ambitions got boosted. They made a demand for a rotational chief ministership with the BJP (CM post for 2.5 years) and more cabinet berths. Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut came out stating that a 50-50 arrangement was agreed upon between BJP and Sena before they formed an alliance. This was denied by the BJP.
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After BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis refused to give the half-term chief ministerial post to Sena, the Sena-BJP alliance broke off. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis tendered his resignation to Governor Koshyari and the newly elected Legislative Assembly of the State went into “suspended animation.” Governor recommends President’s Rule ignoring the possibility of an alliance between Shiv-Sena, NCP, and Congress. President’s rule was imposed on 12 Nov 2019 amid an intense war of words between Sena and BJP.
On 22 Nov 2019, after days of negotiation, a new alliance was born and it was named ‘Maha Vikas Aghadi’ with Uddhav Thackeray as its chief ministerial candidate. Just when the storm seemed to settle, events took another turn when Fadnavis returned as CM after NCP’s Ajit Pawar broke away from MVA with a faction of party MLAs to become the Deputy CM.
Left with no other option, NCP-Congress-Shiv Sena combine moved to the Supreme Court with a petition challenging the “illegal usurpation of power” by the BJP. Two days later, the Supreme Court ordered a floor test. After more than a month of political instability, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray took oath as the 18th Chief Minister of Maharashtra, leading the fractured Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance with the Congress and NCP.
Displeasure within Shiv Sena
The present crisis exposes dissatisfaction within Shiv Sena. Shinde was upset with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Sanjay Raut. His displeasure was mainly because of the importance given to Aaditya Thackeray in the party.
Shinde is an important leader of the party, still, he did not address the party workers on the foundation day of Shiv Sena. Most of the media appearances were made by Sanjay Raut, who is not an elected leader. Just a few days ago, Aaditya Thackeray was on a tour to Ayodhya, and Shinde was given the responsibility to manage the tour.
The political debacle in Maharashtra is unfolding before us with new developments every minute. In the latest turn of events, we are looking at a 10-minute phone call between Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and rebel Minister Eknath Shinde.
After the phone call, Uddhav Thackeray expressed confidence that Shinde and MLAs who had accompanied him to Surat, will return back. Uddhav Thackeray asked him to reconsider his decisions and return to the party. Thackeray is ready to listen to Shinde’s demands. The fact that Shinde and his camp have taken shelter in a BJP-ruled State reveals a lot about who is pulling the strings from behind. The BJP President in Maharashtra, Chandrakant Patil has indicated that the party is open to forming a government with Shinde.
The total strength of the Maharashtra Assembly is 288. With one legislator dead, the number is down to 287. This means the majority mark in the Assembly, in the event of a trust vote, is now 144. If BJP claims the support of these MLAs they can cross the majority mark. However, if these 21 MLAs switch over to BJP, they will have to resign under the anti-defection law. This will lead to a bypoll in the State.
Amid the crisis, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has called for a cabinet meeting on Wednesday at 1 pm. Meanwhile, Congress and NCP are calculating their next move. Congress appointed Kamal Nath as the party’s Observer to the state. Through a notification, the party has stated that the decision has been taken “in wake of recent political developments in the state.”
NCP supremo Sharad Pawar was quick to react to the situation saying, “There are no differences in the alliance and all have full confidence in the leadership of Thackeray,” He further clarified, “this is not an internal issue of the NCP. It is an internal issue of Shiv Sena, they (Sena) will inform us after assessing the situation.”