Mumbai: All eyes are on the Congress – whether it will support the Shiv Sena and the NCP formulation or not. But, if one goes by the poll arithmetic, the Sena-NCP combine can form a government, even if the Congress is not inclined to support it from within or outside.
In fact, this arrangement may suit the Congress, which can conveniently abstain from the trust vote. Thereafter, it can give issue-based support and keep the coalition entirely at its mercy.
On any given day, a coalition of this kind (Sena-NCP) will have to prove on floor of the house that it enjoys the support of at least 145 legislators.
This magic figure of 145 rests on the assumption that all 288 legislators will take part in the trust vote. But if the 44 Congress MLAs decide to abstain from the trust vote, preferring to stay neutral, the effective strength of the Assembly will diminish to 244.
In this scenario, the ruling coalition will need the support of just 123 legislators. (For the record, the Shiv Sena and NCP have 110 MLAs at their beck and call.)
In this way, the Congress can make a virtue out of the fact that it is not supporting the Sena-NCP combine and yet ensure a smooth transition for the combine on the floor of the House, thereby keeping the BJP at bay.
The Congress is in a dilemma whether to support the combine or not. It will draw considerable salacious pleasure by keeping the BJP on the political margins, but it also has to ensure that its hard-core secular-liberal voter does not get alienated. By sitting on the Opposition benches, it can have best of both worlds.
SMALLER PARTIES: Critical to the longevity of the Sena-NCP government will be the smaller parties and the Independent fence-sitters. These include the Bahujan Vikas Aghadi (3 MLAs), MIM (2), Samajwadi Party (2 ), Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatna, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and the CPI(M) with one legislator each.
The Shiv Sena has already secured the support of 8 independent legislators. Generally, independents and smaller parties support the ruling dispensation and this will make it relatively easier for the Sena-NCP combine to cross the 123 threshold.
Election of speaker: The election of the speaker is generally considered as the first floor test. The Shiv Sena is expected to give the post to the NCP.
The Congress will have no qualms about supporting the NCP during the election of the speaker. The elected speaker will conduct the trust vote in the house.