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Maharashtra govt may be on brink of collapse as Sena sacks rebel minister

This move may be a possible step to bring down the Shiv-Sena-led Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition government

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Maharashtra | Shiv Sena

Aditi Phadnis  |  New Delhi 

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray chaired a meet of all Divisional commissioners, Collectors, SPs, and prominent doctors of District government hospitals to review the COVID-19 situation, in Mumbai on Friday.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.

housing minister Eknath Shinde plunged the state government into a crisis when he, along with 20 other MLAs (exact number unclear), decamped to a resort in Surat, with the assistance of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

This move may be a possible step to bring down the Shiv-Sena-led Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition government.

Shinde is one of the Shiv Sena’s senior-most leaders and was a part of Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray’s inner circle.

However, on Tuesday, he removed the affiliation from his Twitter bio. Soon after, chief minister Uddhav Thackeray sacked him from ministership and his position as chief whip of the party.

This development represents the biggest-ever threat to the continuance of a government that has been buffeted by political challenges since it came to power in 2019. The MVA comprises the Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party, the Congress and a host of smaller groups and Independents.

The profile of the assembly after the elections was such that no group could have formed a government without the support of the NCP.

The Sena and the BJP had an acrimonious fall out after the 2019 assembly elections – though they contested the polls as allies.

As the Sena formed the government after tying up with the Congress and NCP, the BJP had left no stone unturned to destabilise the government.

It was trying to do so either by dividing the NCP (by offering blandishments to current deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, a plan that was foiled) or splitting the Sena.

However, former BJP chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has predicted consistently that the MVA was so driven by contradictions and it would fall on its own.

The current crisis appears to have been precipitated by Uddhav Thackeray upbraiding Shinde for the success of the BJP in the recent Rajya Sabha and legislative council elections in which some Sena MLAs voted for the BJP.

Thackeray stopped short of naming Shinde as the one responsible for the increase in BJP numbers. This was the last straw for Shinde who has, over the last two years, made his resentment clear at the rise of Aaditya Thackeray.

His interference in Shinde’s ministry did not go down well with the latter.

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In the past, Sharad Pawar had acted as the main interlocutor and father figure, guiding the MVA through its rough patches. However, on Tuesday, he said Shinde’s rebellion “was an internal matter” of the Sena.

Shinde has let Uddhav know that the proximate cause for his rebellion was that he could no longer tolerate the MVA alliance partners NCP and Congress. He wanted the Sena to return to its old ally, the BJP. Obviously, this will not be acceptable to the Sena.

The standoff can be resolved in one of the three ways: The Sena MLAs (around 20) resign from the party and defect to the BJP.

If they resign, the government goes into minority and President’s Rule is declared, until the BJP is given a chance to stake claim to form the government. However, at least a third of Sena’s MLAs (19 out of 55) must quit to beat the anti-defection law.

The other option is that they resign, contest bypolls and return to the House as affiliates of the BJP.

This was done in Madhya Pradesh, in an exercise that toppled Congress chief minister Kamal Nath’s government and installed Shivraj Singh Chouhan as CM without fresh assembly elections.

The third is that the government manages to win over the errant MLAs, including Shinde.

Uddhav spoke to Shinde for 10 minutes on the phone. The former’s close aides Milind Narvekar and others also reached out to Shinde. However, no success on this front is evident yet.

Some BJP leaders have asked governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari to dissolve the House. But that means fresh elections, a challenge no one from any party wants to face.

The role of the governor, known for his independent thinking, becomes crucial here. Equally crucial is the role of the other big party in the legislature, the NCP.

Sharad Pawar had told a questioner to ask ‘sensible questions’ when it was put to him that the NCP and the BJP could join forces to form a government. Pawar is in regular touch with the BJP at the highest level.

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First Published: Tue, June 21 2022. 22:38 IST
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