Rajat Sharma

Uddhav Thackeray is fighting a losing battle

akb full_frame_74900The political imbroglio in Maharashtra continues with one more Shiv Sena MLA Dilip Lande landing in Guwahati on Friday, to join the Eknath Shinde-led camp taking the total number of Shiv Sena MLAs in the rebel fold to 38. Three Shiv Sena MLAs had joined the Shinde camp on Thursday. There are also eight independent MLAs in Guwahati, who have extended support to Shinde.

More than two-thirds of the Shiv Sena MLAs have now become rebels, and if a vertical split takes place, they will be saved from disqualification under the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution (anti-defection law).

In a related development, the Shiv Sena, in letters to the Deputy Speaker, has sought disqualification of 16 MLAs, including Shinde, for defying the Chief Whip’s order for attending legislative party meeting. The Assembly Secretariat has, in a letter to Shiv Sena, accepted the appointment of Ajay Choudhary as the leader of Shiv Sena legislative party replacing Eknath Shinde.

Uddhav Thackeray’s son Aditya Thackeray was huddled in a meeting with district Shiv Sena chiefs at a meeting in party headquarters on Friday. There are reports that a public meeting of Shiv Sena is planned Friday evening on Mumbai’s Marine Drive.

Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut met NCP supremo Sharad Pawar to discuss ways to come out of the present impasse. Later, Sanjay Raut claimed that the Maha Vikas Aghadi will prove majority on the floor of the House, and “if this battle is fought on the roads, we are ready for it too”. “I challenge them (rebel MLAs) to come to the floor of the House”, Sanjay Raut said.

Despite claims to the contrary, the fact remains that the Uddhav Thackeray camp is now left with only 12 Shiv Sena MLAs, and Eknath Shinde has the numbers to topple the MVA government, with BJP’s help. BJP has 106 MLAs and there are seven independents who are ready to support BJP.

On Thursday, Eknath Shinde paraded his supporter MLAs in a Guwahati hotel, and said that we have a ‘maha shakti’ which is behind us. The morale in Eknath Shinde’s camp now is very high, and it is just a matter of time before the rebels will return to Mumbai and meet the Governor. On Thursday, the rebel MLAs declared Shinde as their leader and chanted slogans ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ and ‘Balasaheb Thackeray Ki Jai’.

The Thackeray family is now worried that Eknath Shinde and his supporters may also take control of the 56-year-old party, founded by Balasaheb Thackeray on June 19, 1966. Shinde group may also petition the Election Commission of India and seek the ‘bow and arrow’ election symbol of Shiv Sena. Eknath Shinde has also claimed that at least 14 out of 18 Shiv Sena MPs in Lok Sabha are in his camp. Shinde is going to declare his group as the real Shiv Sena.

Uddhav Thackeray’s allies, Sharad Pawar and Congress, are now in a fix. On Thursday, NCP supremo Sharad Pawar said that the majority will be decided on the floor of the House, and “let the MLAs first return to Mumbai”.

Both Uddhav Thackeray and Sharad Pawar know that they have lost the game, because 38 Shiv Sena MLAs are now with rebel leader Eknath Shinde. Nobody can say that these MLAs were intimidated and taken to Guwahati by force. The rebel MLAs have been camping in Guwahati for the last four days, freely mixing with people, and making preparations on how to instal a new government. These rebels are already in a celebratory mood.

On the other hand, Uddhav and his advisers are now fighting a losing battle with their back to the wall. They are already visualizing Devendra Fadnavis coming back to power with the support of rebel Shiv Sena MLAs.

It reminds me of the famous Urdu couplet (sher) that Fadnavis quoted in the Assembly in 2019, when the MVA government took over. Fadnavis had then said, “Mera paani utarta dekh, mere kinarey par ghar mat basa lena, Main samandar hoon, lout kar waapas aaoonga” (On seeing my water level recede, Do not build your home at my place, I am the sea, and I shall return). Fadnavis is ready to sweep back to power and make a grand comeback.

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