Hectic developments are going on in Maharashtra with the political crisis entering its second week. On Tuesday, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray issued an open appeal to rebel Shiv Sena MLAs, staying in Guwahati, asking them to come back to Maharashtra and meet him so that a way out can be found.
In his appeal, Uddhav Thackeray wrote, “Some of you are in touch with us. Shiv Sena is still in your heart. Some of your family members also contacted me. As the head of the Shiv Sena family, I respect your feelings. Leave aside your confusion, a definite way will be found out when we will sit together. Do not be fooled by others. You will never get back the respect that you got in Shiv Sena. As the head of the Shiv Sena family, I care for all of you."
It is yet to be seen what effect Uddhav’s appeal will have on the rebels, but already, there are efforts by the rebel Shiv Sena MLAs to seek a floor test in the state assembly. They are already exploring the possibility of forming a coalition government with the BJP.
Meanwhile, BJP leader and former CM Devendra Fadnavis reached Delhi on Tuesday to discuss the issue with Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP president J P Nadda, amid reports that the Governor may direct the Maha Vikas Aghadi government to prove its majority inside the Assembly by this weekend.
On Monday, the MVA government suffered a severe jolt when the Supreme Court, in its order, gave protection to all rebel Shiv Sena MLAs from disqualification till July 11 at 5.30 pm. The apex court directed the coalition government to ensure the safety of the rebel MLAs and their families in Maharashtra.
The vacation bench of Justices Surya Kant and J B Pardiwala declined Shiv Sena’s request to stop the rebel MLAs from demanding a floor test in the assembly. Lawyers for the MVA and Deputy Speaker tried their best to persuade the bench not to interfere in the disqualification proceedings against 15 rebel Shiv Sena MLAs, saying it fell in the exclusive domain of the speaker.
Clearly, the Supreme Court order has put a dampener on the hopes of the Uddhav Thackeray camp, as the apex court has put a brake on the efforts to disqualify the rebel MLAs. On the other hand, the opposition BJP and the rebel Shiv Sena camp are now going to press for an early floor test to decide who commands the majority in the House.
In another development, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has taken away all the portfolios from the nine rebel ministers but has not recommended their dismissal. The Thackeray camp is still nurturing hopes that some of the rebel MLAs will return to the party fold. All eyes are now on Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari, who has sought from the Chief Secretary, details of all government resolutions passed between June 22 and 24 by the MVA government.
After the Supreme Court gave its order, the rebel camp’s morale is high. Rebel Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde tweeted to say that this is a victory for Hindu Hriday Samrat Balasaheb Thackeray and Dharmaveer Anand Dighe (Eknath’s political guru). On the other hand, senior Shiv Sena leader Anil Desai claimed that 20 out of the 39 rebel MLAs present in Guwahati had promised to support Uddhav Thackeray during the floor test.
Both Desai and other Shiv Sena leaders like Sanjay Raut and Aditya Thackeray know that these dreams are hollow. Had these rebel MLAs promised support, the Thackeray camp would not have delayed in calling the Assembly session to prove its majority. To counter the tide of rebellion, the Thackeray camp is holding public meetings of party supporters and workers in districts and towns, in order to boost the morale of its cadre.
The rebel MLAs are unhappy with Sanjay Raut, who, they allege, never allowed the MLAs and local leaders to meet Uddhav Thackeray. They allege that it is Sanjay Raut who has been preventing all efforts for a patch-up. Rebel MLA Deepak Kesarkar said that Sanjay Raut had been using abusive language against the rebels, which even the Congress or NCP leaders never used in the past.
The BJP camp is keeping its cards close to its chest. On Monday, the state BJP core committee met and decided that it would follow a ‘wait and watch’ policy. The party leadership has decided not to topple the MVA government, but to let it fall under its own weight of contradictions.
Two possibilities are clear. One, Uddhav Thackeray is ready to take all risks, but the BJP is not going to take risks. For Uddhav Thackeray, the options are, either to resign, offer rebel leader Eknath Shinde to take over as the new CM, or quit the MVA alliance with NCP and Congress. But a floor test cannot be held in such an atmosphere.
Normally, in political parlance, the camp seeking the resignation of a government demands a floor test and the government, on its part, takes up the opposition’s challenge to prove its majority. What is happening in Maharashtra, is completely the opposite. Eknath Shinde is demanding a floor test, and the MVA government is shying away from facing a floor test.
BJP leaders know that Uddhav Thackeray lacks the leadership and acumen to save his government, but BJP leaders acknowledge the shrewd political capability of NCP supremo Sharad Pawar. Devendra Fadnavis and other BJP leaders know what Sharad Pawar can do, when the last time, they hurriedly formed a coalition with his nephew Ajit Pawar. The BJP leadership is, therefore, taking its steps carefully. Once bitten, twice shy.
BJP leaders want, either Eknath Shinde demands that the MVA government should prove its majority on the floor of the House, or the Governor, taking cognizance of the evolving situation, to direct the Uddhav government to prove its majority. BJP wants to form its government, but it is not in a hurry.
BJP leaders know that Uddhav Thackeray simply does not have the capability to put down the flames of rebellion that have engulfed the Shiv Sena. All eyes are now on Sharad Pawar. As a wily politician, Sharad Pawar never gives any indication about his next step in advance. He was in Delhi on Monday but was busy with other opposition leaders for the filing of the nomination of Yashwant Sinha.
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