Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Shinde sacked but Uddhav Thackeray govt could be toppled

Rebel Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde

Rebel Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde has been removed as the party’s legislative group leader in the Maharashtra assembly. The development comes amid a political crisis within the MVA government that unfolded in Maharashtra on Wednesday.

Eknath Shinde and 26 other MLAs are holed up at a resort in Surat, Gujarat. He has not contacted anyone outside the resort and no one is allowed to go in or come out of the property. Sources said nine more MLAs are likely to join him at the resort.Meanwhile, Maharashtra BJP MLA Sanjay Kute reached the Le Meridien resort in Surat, Gujarat, in a bid to meet the rebel MLAs. The BJP is likely to offer to move all rebels to Ahmedabad.

Highly placed sources in the Shiv Sena said that two messengers will be sent to Surat from the Uddhav Thackeray camp to talk to rebel Eknath Shinde. Uddhav’s close aide Milind Narvekar and MP Rajan Vichare are likely to be sent.

Congress, too, decided to send its senior leader Kamal Nath to Maharashtra to deal with the crisis after sources said that Shinde may ask Shiv Sena chief and Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray to ally with the BJP, forsaking the Congress.

Maharashtra’s Maha Vikas Agadhi (MVA) government has fallen into the danger zone once again after senior Shiv Sena Minister Eknath Shinde vamoosed with at least 20 MLAs to a Surat resort on Tuesday. 

Sources have informed Republic that three sitting Ministers of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government – Abdul Sattar, Shambhu Raj Desai, and Sandipan Bhumre – are staying at a five-star hotel in Surat, along with 17 other rebel MLAs, who are said to be in touch with the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP).

While the Congress has downplayed the crisis hitting out at the BJP for their ‘misuse of authority’, the Shiv Sena has conceded that its MLAs were indeed unreachable. However, Sena MP Sanjay Raut has reposed faith in Shinde calling him a ‘loyal Shiv Sainik.’ 

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray met the Shiv Sena leaders and MLAs to discuss the situation after Eknath Shinde along with some Sena MLAs went incommunicado. The Shiv Sena president held the meeting with Sena MLAs Sunil Kadam, Dada Bhuse, Neelam Gorhe, MPs Arvind Sawant and Vinayak Raut, MLC Manisha Kayande and other leaders.

With former Maha CM Devendra Fadnavis reaching New Delhi to meet Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP President JP Nadda, and Congress and Shiv Sena rushing to hold emergency meetings in the State, here is the number game in Maharashtra as of now. 

The Maharashtra state legislative council elections results have put the BJP within a touching distance of the magic number after it secured 134 votes against the majority of 145 in the 288-member state assembly, many votes said to be a result of heavy cross-voting. With the BJP’s big win, Maha Vikas Aghadi’s support base eroded from 169 votes to 151.

Notably, the effective strength of the 288-member Maharashtra Assembly is reduced to 285 following the death of Shiv Sena MLA Ramesh Latke, while two NCP MLAs – Nawab Malik and Anil Deshmukh – are currently in jail and have not been allowed to vote by a court. 

As per sources, BJP got 26 more votes from outside, 130 votes in total in the first preference, suggesting that the Sena, NCP, and Congress MLAs cross-voted, just like in the Rajya Sabha elections. The BJP had bagged 106 seats, Shiv Sena 55, Congress 44, NCP 52, and smaller parties and Independents 25 after the 2019 state elections.

A party or a coalition needs only 145 to reach the majority mark. This means that the BJP, with a strong majority of 134 MLAs on its own, is short of just 11 MLAs to form the Government. With sources claiming that as many as 30 MLAs of the Shinde coup may jump ship, the Fadnavis-led brigade is likely to sail past the majority mark.

Sources have also revealed that the disgruntled Shiv Sena Minister who was scooted away is being offered a top post by the BJP in return for helping the party come back to power. Moreover, it is being indicated that all the rebel legislators are likely to resign. 

Despite winning a comfortable majority of its own in the 2019 Assembly election, NDA could not form the government over Shiv Sena’s demand for the rotational CM post. After the imposition of the President’s Rule in the State, BJP took a surprising step of joining hands with NCP’s Ajit Pawar, who had reportedly promised the support of other legislators. However, the new Fadnavis-led government had to resign ahead of the SC-mandated floor test owing to the paucity of numbers. Subsequently, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray took oath as the CM of Maharashtra backed by new allies NCP and Congress on November 28, 2019. 

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