The story so far: In a jolt to the Maha Vikas Aghadi, senior Shiv Sena Minister Eknath Shinde and 11 other MLAs revolted against the party on Monday night and camped in Surat’s Le Meridian Hotel. The number of rebels has now inflated to 33 MLAs who have now shifted base to the Radisson Blu hotel in Assam’s Guwahati.
Mr. Shinde’s rebellion comes a day after BJP managed to win five of the ten seats up for grabs in the Maharashtra Legislative Council, displaying the support of 134 MLAs including 106 BJP MLAs, three each from Congress and Shiv Sena, and other independent MLAs.
With this rebellion, the reduced numbers are effectively
- Shiv Sena: 22 MLAs, NCP: 51 MLAs (excluding jailed MLAs who may be unable to vote), Congress: 44 MLAs. Total MVA strength stands at 117 MLAs
- BJP: 106 MLAs, NDA allies: 7 MLAs. Total NDA strength stands at 113 MLAs
2019 election results
After the 2019 Maharashtra Assembly elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Shiv Sena, which fought jointly as the ‘Mahayuti’ alliance, won a majority against the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP)-Congress ‘Maha Aghadi’ alliance.
- BJP: 105 seats
- Shiv Sena: 56 seats
- NCP: 54 seats
- Congress: 44 seats
With the souring of BJP-Shiv Sena ties, the Sena partnered with NCP and Congress to form the Maha Vikas Aghadi government – displaying a strength of 154 MLAs and passing the 144-seat halfway mark. In subsequent bypolls, BJP has gained a seat while NCP has lost one. Sena MLA Ramesh Latke’s death and the jailing of NCP MLAs Anil Deshmukh and Nawab Malik have reduced the 288-member Assembly to 285.
As the reduced strength of the Assembly now stands at 252 seats (285 MLAs- 33 Sena rebel MLAs), the halfway mark has now been reduced to 126 – pushing the MVA govt into a minority. Even if the 33 Sena MLAs switch to the BJP, they will have to resign and contest in by-polls.
Formation of MVA govt
In the 288-seat Assembly, the BJP-Shiv Sena together crossed the 144-seat halfway mark with a 161-seat majority after the 2019 polls. However, Shiv Sena insisted on a 50:50 formula sharing the Chief Minister’s post with BJP for two-and-a-half years each and an equal distribution of ministry portfolios. Denying that such a formula was ever agreed upon prior to the polls, then-CM Devendra Fadnavis asserted that the ‘next govt will be formed under a BJP CM.’ Moreover, BJP also allegedly offered only 13 cabinet portfolios to Sena while keeping 26 for its ministers, further irking Sena leadership.
Then, Sena began coalition talks with NCP and Congress – agreeing on a common minimum programme, split of ministry portfolios and choosing Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray as CM. As Sharad Pawar announced Thackeray as the joint CM candidate, his nephew Ajit Pawar rebelled.
Claiming the support of all NCP MLAs, Ajit Pawar took oath as the deputy CM of Maharashtra along with Devendra Fadnavis as CM on November 23, 2019. With Sena, NCP and Congress securing their MLAs in hotels, the three parties moved the Supreme Court seeking a floor test of the new government. After the apex court ordered a floor test in three days with open ballot voting, Ajit Pawar resigned and returned to the NCP fold. The three parties formed the new government — the Maha Vikas Aghadi government — ushering in Uddhav Thackeray’s first term as CM.
Since the formation of the government, many Congress MLAs including veterans Balasaheb Thorat and Ashok Chavan have expressed discontent with the party’s diminished role. They have openly claimed that Mr. Thackeray took decisions unilaterally without consulting with his Congress M. Moreover, Congress State chief Nana Patole has repeatedly asserted that the Congress will fight solo in 2024 for the Maharashtra Assembly elections.
Rajya Sabha & MLC election cross-voting
On June 10, trouble in the MVA came out on public display after BJP snatched four out of six seats in Maharashtra’s Rajya Sabha polls. While Congress’ Imran Pratapgarhi, NCP’s Praful Patel, Sena’s Sanjay Raut, BJP’s Piyush Goyal and Anil Bonde won their seats in accordance with party expectations, the battle raged between Sena’s Sanjay Pawar and BJP’s Dhananjay Mahadik for the sixth seat. With counting being halted for over eight hours following complaints about violation of rules by the MVA and BJP, the State Election Commission rejected the vote cast by Shiv Sena legislator Suhas Kande and barred jailed NCP MLAs from voting, leading to Mr. Mahadik winning 33 votes compared to Mr.Pawar’s 27.
On June 20, the MVA faced another jolt when 12 Sena MLAs cross-voted in favour of BJP’s candidate in the Legislative Councill polls allowing the saffron party to win almost 21 votes more than its actual support of 113 MLAs. Out of 10 seats, BJP’s Pravin Darekar, Shrikant Bharatiya, Uma Khapre, Ram Shinde and Prasad Lad managed to win 5 MLC seats along with NCP’s Eknath Khadse, Ramraje Naik-Nimbalkar; Shiv Sena’s Sachin Ahir and Amshya Padvi and Congress’ Bhai Jagtap. BJP’s extra seat was due to Congress’ Chandrakant Handore failing to win in the second round despite Congress having 44 seats in its kitty.
After Monday’s cross-voting, as the MVA parties began an introspection process, senior Sena minister Eknath Shinde along with 11 MLAs flew to Gujarat’s Surat. Camping at the Le Meridian Hotel, the rebel MLAs urged Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray to renew ties with BJP – complaining against the style of functioning of the NCP and Congress. As per sources, Sena MLAs and three Independent MLAs have now moved to Assam’s Guwahati after talks between Shinde and Sena leaders Milind Narvekar and Ravindra Phatak — sent by Mr. Thackeray — failed to thwart the rebellion.
Sena has now housed its remaining MLAs in different hotels in Mumbai to avoid further defection while its partners NCP and Congress have stated that the rebellion was Sena’s internal issue – asserting that all of their MLAs are with them. While BJP initially stated that it had no hand in Shinde’s rebellion, it is now reportedly exploring the possibility of staking a claim for government formation.