Mumbai: Despite intervention by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and his wife Rashmi to quell the rebellion, Shiv Sena heads for a vertical split following the rebellion staged by veteran party leader and minister Eknath Shinde along with 36 legislators. Even though the Shiv Sena claims that Team Shinde does not have required numbers to engineer split, the latter has been reportedly in touch with BJP to shore up the legislators to avoid action under the anti-defection law.
In the 288-member Maharashtra Assembly, Shiv Sena has 54 MLAs as one of its legislators Ramesh Latke recently died, NCP (53), Congress (44), Bahujan Vikas Aghadi (three), Samajwadi Party, AIMIM and Prahar Janshakti Party two each. MNS, CPI-M, PWP, Swabhimani Paksha, Rashtriya Samaj Party, Jansurajya Shakti Party and Krantikari Shetkari Paksha have one MLA each. There are 13 independent MLAs.
The opposition BJP has 106 MLAs. BJP with the support of 7 independents and one MNS legislator will have a strength of 114. The party managed to poll 123 votes in the Rajya Sabha election and 134 votes in the state council election. It will however need 30 legislators to cross the halfway mark of 144 to prove the majority in the state assembly.
A senior BJP leader told the Free Press Journal, ‘’The plan to lure Shiv Sena legislators was hatched at last four months ago with the blessings of BJP’s central leadership. It was decided to exploit internal contradiction of MVA and lure Shinde and other disgruntled Shiv Sena legislators. BJP is confident that Team Shinde will reach the strength of 36 to avoid anti-defection law paving the way for the formation of new government in the state.’’
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut has ruled out 'Operation Lotus' by BJP in Maharashtra hinting that the government will weather the present political crisis. Interestingly, BJP has adopted a wait and watch policy. State BJP chief Chandrakant Patil said it would be hasty to comment on Eknath Shinde's role now. He is the group leader of Shiv Sena in the legislature. Their role and the situation created by it is an internal matter of that party. BJP has not given any proposal to Shinde neither the latter has submitted any to form the government. Many Shiv Sena legislators feel that they may not get reflected if Shiv Sena continues its alliance with NCP and Congress, he noted.
Leaders of NCP and Congress, the other constituents of the MVA, however, asserted that there is no threat to the stability of the state government. Congress party after humiliating defeat of its candidate Chandrakant Handore in state council election clarified that the party’s all 44 legislators were in constant communication and denied reports that at least 5 were not reachable.
Currently, of the Sena's 54 MLAs, Team Shinde claimed support of 36 legislators while Raut said 31 were in Mumbai while few others who were out of the city will be there on Wednesday. ‘’If Shiv Sena manages to woo legislators from Team Shinde, the MVA government will survive,’’ said a senior party leader. However, he clarified that if Shiv Sena fails to bring back disgruntled legislators then the split in the party will happen.