There are a few possibilities, most not favourable to the Shiv Sena, when it comes to the future of Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government. However, whatever the outcome may be, it is certain that the party has received a massive jolt — one that it may not be able to recover from
The Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government — the ruling alliance consisting of the Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), and the Congress — is facing its worst-ever crisis and battling survival after strongman Eknath Shinde has sequestered 32 other MLAs in Guwahati.
On Wednesday, an emotional Uddhav Thackeray hinted at stepping down as chief minister when he said, “Will quit as chief minister and leave official residence if even one of the disgruntled MLAs says he doesn’t want me as chief minister.”
He further said, “What is happening now? I am saddened and shocked. If the NCP and Congress say they don’t want me, it is acceptable. But here, Kamal Nath and (Sharad) Pawar called me and extended support, while my own people are saying they don’t want me. What can I do? Now I wonder if at all they consider me as their own.”
Following his speech, Thackeray and his family left the chief minister’s residence — Varsha — and moved back to their family house — Matoshree — in Mumbai’s suburban area of Bandra.
Meanwhile, one-time loyalist Eknath Shinde, who removed Shiv Sena from his Twitter bio, affirmed his faith in Hindutva and said that it was “essential to get out of the unnatural front for the survival of the party”.
What happens next? Will Uddhav Thackeray swim or sink? Will the 34 MLAs return back to the Shiv Sena fold? We take a look at the different scenarios that could play out in the state of Maharashtra.
Form a new party?
For Eknath Shinde, one of the possibilities is that he forms a new party with the support of the other MLAs who are with him in Guwahati.
On Wednesday, Shinde said he had the support of 33 other MLAs — 30 from the Shiv Sena, two from Prahar Janshakti Party and one other Independent. However, more MLAs have joined the breakaway group — getting their numbers up to 36 (out of the party’s 55 MLAs) on its side.
NDTV reported that Deepak Kesakar (MLA from Sawantwadi), Mangesh Kudalkar (Chembur) and Sada Sarvankar (Dadar) took a morning flight from Mumbai to Guwahati to join Shinde.
The Shinde group is now just short of one MLA to split the party without facing disqualification under anti-defection laws.
If Shinde forms a new party, the MVA government would be forced to face a no-confidence motion where it is more likely that Uddhav would lose the vote, and would have to step down.
Merge with the BJP
There is a strong possibility that Shinde with the support of the MLAs will merge with the BJP. Sources have said that Eknath Shinde will gather more MLAs in his camp (he needs 37 so as to avoid the anti-defection law to kick in) and with that the BJP will approach the Governor and stake claim to form the government.
A Sena-BJP reunion on the cards
One way that the Maharashtra political crisis could be brought to its conclusion would be the Sena giving in to Eknath Shinde and the MLAs’ demand of breaking the ‘unnatural alliance’ with the NCP and Congress and realigning themselves with their one-time ally, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Eknath Shinde and his group of MLAs in a resolution stated that there was an “enormous discontent” among Shiv Sena cadres for being allied with the “ideologically opposite” NCP and the Congress.
It added that the Sena leadership’s decision to sever ties with BJP after the 2019 Maharashtra polls had a “negative” impact on the party cadres and voters. “We have also been subjected to a lot of criticism for being part of this corrupt Maharashtra government,” the letter stated, adding, “The ideology of our party’s leader the late Balasaheb Thackeray was to give a clean and honest government to the people of Maharashtra and also without compromising on the principle of Hindutva, which was defeated on the first day itself by aligning with the opposing ideologies.”
However, this seems unlikely as the Shiv Sena remains adamant about their position vis-?-vis the BJP.
Sanjay Raut, a senior Shiv Sainik and spokesperson for the party, had earlier said as per a Hindustan Times report, “Shiv Sena is a party that does not work when conditions are put. The alliance of 25 years had to be cut off due to certain reasons. Everyone, including Eknath Shinde, is aware why the Shiv Sena split with the BJP.”
Ghar wapsi for Shinde camp
Another possibility, though very remote now, is that the Shiv Sena manages to assuage Shinde and the other MLAs to return to the fold. This could result in two scenarios: The first one could see Shinde return and the Thackerays ceding more ground to him.
As per reports, during a meet of the allies, it was suggested that Eknath Shinde be named as chief minister.
In the second scenario, Shinde is brought within the fold, but cut down to size. The Times of India reports that Sena’s leadership will cut him to size and shift control in the Thane district where he currently holds sway. Shinde may take years to regain Matoshree’s trust.
In all this, the BJP has adopted a cautious approach. However, it seems that it may have the last laugh as the MVA government seems to be on its last legs.
With inputs from agencies