Mumbai: The Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, and the Shiv Sena in particular, are in a deep political crisis after a midnight coup by veteran Shiv Sainik and state urban development minister Eknath Shinde and few other legislators who left for Surat and were not traceable till Tuesday noon.
Shinde, along with 32 legislators, including two independents, revolted as they were annoyed over Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s neglect and initiative in meeting them. Their grouse is lack of freedom and clearance for their proposals, including additional funds to their respective constituencies.
After shifting to Surat, Shinde removed Sena from his Twitter bio and posted in Marathi, “We are Balasaheb’s staunch Shiv Sainiks... Balasaheb has taught us Hindutva... We have never and will never cheat for power regarding Balasaheb’s thoughts and Dharmaveer Anand Dighe Saheb’s teachings.”
If Shinde and other legislators team up to form a separate group, they may not attract the provisions of the anti-defection law. This will pave the way for them to seek the Speaker’s consent that will help them join the BJP, which, in turn, would cross the halfway mark of 144 in the 288-member assembly to form the government and win the vote of confidence.
If the team fails to achieve their strength at 36, they will face legal and legislative hurdles.
The BJP, meanwhile, is in wait and watch mode. However, there is a likelihood that it will appeal to the Governor to ask the Thackeray-led government to prove his majority on the floor of the house. In that case, if Thackeray fails to lure most of the rebel legislators and keep the allies and independents and small parties together, he may face defeat or he will resign citing lack of sufficient numbers.
The day’s political round-up
In Surat, Shinde’s comrades in arms are Sandipan Bhure, Abdul Sattar and Shambhuraj Desai. The rebel leaders were also unhappy over the Shiv Sena’s alliance with the NCP and Congress, citing that it would ruin the party’s growth prospects.
The turmoil hit the government a day after the BJP won all five seats it contested in the Legislative Council poll. The Sena and NCP bagged two each in the results declared on Monday. However, Congress candidate Chandrakant Handore lost in a setback for the ruling alliance.
Thackeray woke up to the news of Shinde’s revolt as the MVA government’s survival was at stake. However, trouble-shooters of the MVA parties were busy in the background to defuse and salvage the situation.
Thackeray swung into action and chaired a meeting with party legislators and senior leaders at his official residence Varsha. In a swift move, Shinde was sacked as the legislative party group leader by appointing Ajay Chaudhari to the post. Nearly 17 legislators, including a few ministers, attended the meeting and thereafter Chaudhary handed over the letter to the deputy speaker Narahari Zirwal on his new appointment. But Shinde reportedly took objection against the party’s move saying that he continues to be the legislative party group leader.
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut alleged that Shinde was pressured to go against the Uddhav Thackeray-led party and also alleged that at least two MLAs accompanied the minister in Surat. He also lashed out at the BJP for its attempt to carry out the ‘Operation Lotus’ on the lines of Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka to topple the MVA government but claimed it won’t succeed. He further claimed that some of the MLAs were misled and “kidnapped” to Gujarat.
Thereafter, the CM sent his close confidant Milind Narvekar and Ravindra Phatak to hold talks with Shinde with an appeal to withdraw his revolt. They met Shinde at the Surat hotel who spoke to Thackeray over the phone, as per sources. Shinde put three proposals, including that the Sena should walk out of the MVA government, rejoining the BJP and forming the alliance government back in the state. Shinde reportedly became emotional during his talk with the CM and later with his wife Rashmi Thackeray.