By Sunil Garodia
First publised on 2022-06-21 15:39:55
With 21 Shiv Sena MLAs (under the leadership of minister and chief whip Eknath Shinde) fleeing Mumbai and camping in a hotel in Surat, the MVA government in Maharashtra is facing a big test for its survival. In a day of rapid happenings, the Shiv Sena tried damage control. It first removed Shinde from noth the posts he held and then tried to placate the rebels. Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray even held a 10-minute long conversation with Shinde but it is not clear yet if any understanding was reached. It is being reported that Shinde told Thackeray that the Sena should patch up with the BJP to take the Hindutva agenda forward. The crisis has not blown over and despite the brave face the party is putting up, it seems that something like Rajasthan and Karnataka is brewing in Maharashtra. It will take all the clout and political acumen of Thackeray (aided of course by ally and one of the most shrewd politicians in the country, Sharad Pawar although his party, the NCP, has said that it was Shiv Sena's internal matter) to get over this and win back the confidence of the rebel MLAs.
For now, the BJP has kept out. State BJP chief Chandrakant Patil categorically denied that the rebels were instigated by his party or that the party was in talks with them (although later in the day he admitted that BJP MLAs were meeting Shinde in Surat). But after the BJP's surprise victories in the Rajya Sabha elections and the state legislative council elections, it was known to all that Shiv Sena MLAs were cross voting to enable BJP candidates to win. There must have been some understanding between the BJP and these rebels. From there to an open rebellion was just a matter of time as the rebels were aware that the Shiv Sena would leave no stone unturned to find out how the BJP managed to win. Thus, they have taken the big step of rebelling against the party.
Despite denying a hand in the crisis in the Shiv Sena, the BJP leaders are upbeat about forming the government with the Sena rebels. Devendra Fadnavis is keeping a close watch on the developments (though some unverified reports had said he was in Delhi distributing sweets to top party leaders in anticipation of forming the government) and it is becoming increasingly clear that if the Sena is not able to win back the rebels (which looks highly unlikely as of now), the MVA government will collapse and the BJP will form the government, either with support from the rebel Sena MLAs or by including them in the government as Shinde has reportedly indicated his desire for a patch-up with the BJP and has said he will not return to the Shiv Sena if it does not once again ally with the BJP.