Published: Published Date – 12:05 AM, Fri – 24 June 22

The political drama in Maharashtra, following the shocking rebellion by senior Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde, is unfolding as per the script and direction of the BJP which has been waiting in the wings to take revenge against its former ally. The potboiler carries the imprint of the toppling template followed by the saffron party in the past in States like Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh and Puducherry. What is of significance is that Shinde, a senior Minister in the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government who is leading the revolt, is a close friend of former BJP Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. Moreover, he is openly rooting for the revival of the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance and to end the ‘unnatural tie-up’ with the Congress and the Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). The rebel MLAs have chosen the BJP-ruled States — first Gujarat and then Assam — to take shelter. It is clear who is going to be the beneficiary of the political crisis triggered by Shinde’s rebellion. In the 2019 Assembly elections, the BJP emerged as the single largest party with 105 seats and its alliance partner Shiv Sena won 56. However, following a dispute over the Shiv Sena’s demand to share the post of the chief minister, the ministry formation did not take place and President’s rule was soon imposed. While the Shiv Sena launched efforts to come to power with the backing of the Congress and the NCP, the BJP captured power through a surprise move. Fadnavis became the Chief Minister again by making Ajit Pawar of the NCP his deputy. However, he was forced to resign after the Supreme Court ordered a trust vote.

The ongoing political crisis comes as a big blow to the coalition experiment and exposes the chinks in Shiv Sena. The fall of the MVA government is imminent with the rebel camp claiming the support of at least 36 legislators. Clearly, Thackeray has lost the support of the majority MLAs of his party. To invoke the anti-defection law, Thackeray will need the support of at least 37 MLAs, a remote possibility now. Shinde’s rebellion comes just after the MVA’s drubbing at the hands of the BJP in the Rajya Sabha polls on June 10 and Maharashtra Legislative Council polls on June 20. The MVA is a fragile coalition — riddled with intra-party and inter-party conflicts and disputes — which made it more vulnerable to the BJP’s game plan. Following the crisis, the Congress and the NCP are also on their toes to keep their flocks together. From the time the Shiv Sena broke ranks with the BJP, its ally of three decades, it was clear that the saffron party could give a body blow to the MVA alliance. Since the beginning, a large section of Shiv Sena MLAs, including Shinde, was unhappy over ending the alliance with the BJP.

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