Holed up in Guwahati with fellow rebels, Shinde has sent a letter to the Maharashtra Assembly Speaker Narhari Zirwal stating that the present Udhav Thackeray government should go. However, the letter has the signatures of only 34 Shiv Sena MLAs; these MLAs would face disqualification under the anti-defection law that requires 2/3
rd of the total to break away. Shiv Sena has 55 MLAs and the 2/3
rd figure stands at 37. Shinde will have to get the signatures of three more.
Among the rebels supporting Shinde are 7 Independents and some from smaller parties. They can easily switch to the side which is swinging towards power. Time is of the essence here as keeping the flock together for very long would be difficult.
The whole rebellion is clearly inspired by BJP’s success under Fadnavis in the Rajya Sabha and MLC elections where the former chief minister managed cross voting by the MLAs. However, in a no-confidence vote, the MLAs will be bound by the party whip. Moreover, the Speaker- who belongs to the NCP- will go for the no-confidence vote only if signatures of 37 Shiv Sena rebels are submitted. The Governor- at present Goa Governor PS Shreedharan Pillai is officiating as BS Koshyari is down with Covid- will also have to go by the same rule.
Shinde’s letter to the Speaker is an interesting read. It eulogises Shiv Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray, saying he was a nationalist and the party has now deviated from his ideology and principles by tying up with parties that do not adhere to his politics. It also states that the 2014 Maharashtra elections were fought with BJP and Shiv Sena in alliance, underlining that the two should have formed the government.
BJP and Shiv Sena together have the numbers to form the government in the 288-member Assembly. With 145 being the majority mark, BJP (106) and Shiv Sena (55) add up to 161. Independents are also likely to support.
However, this would mean Udhav Thackeray will have to step down from the chief minister’s perch.
All eyes would be on whether Thackeray can make Shinde an acceptable offer to return from the BJP’s side. Even if Shinde succeeds in toppling the Thackeray government, he will not go further than the deputy chief minister’s post as BJP will have its man as CM.
NCP supremo Sharad Pawar is now involved in saving the government. It is to be seen if Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi will offer him the deputy CM post and whether he will accept.
With two years to go for the next Assembly elections, both sides would prefer to avoid dissolution of the House and fresh elections.
However, if the rebellion goes the way it did in Rajasthan against the Ashok Gehlot-led Congress government, Shinde will lose more of his former clout than Ajit Pawar did.