Will it fall or survive? All eyes on Maharashtra's MVA govt as Shinde's 'resort politics' troubles Uddhav

Uddhav Thackeray
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray arrives at Vidhan Bhavan in Mumbai on June 20, 2022. Photo: PTI

New Delhi: With the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in Maharashtra in crisis, NCP chief Sharad Pawar on Tuesday alleged that a third attempt was being made to pull it down but expressed confidence that Chief Minister Udhhav Thackeray will be able to handle the "internal issue" of the Shiv Sena.

Pawar, who played a crucial role in the formation of the MVA government, said it will complete its full five-year term and ruled out going with the BJP, in case the state government falls.

He said he would be leaving for Mumbai soon after the opposition meeting on the joint presidential candidate and would be meeting Thackeray later in the day.

"There are no differences in the alliance and all have full confidence in the leadership of Thackeray," he told reporters.

"This is not an internal issue of the NCP. It is an internal issue of Shiv Sena, they (Sena) will inform us after assessing the situation," he also said.

Pressed further, Pawar reiterated that it is the Sena's internal issue and whatever that party decides, "we'll be with them".

The Uddhav Thackeray-led government in Maharashtra appears to be in crisis after Shiv Sena minister Eknath Shinde and some MLAs of his party went incommunicado and camped in Surat, a day after suspected cross-voting in MLC polls.

As Shinde is yet to spell out his stand, Maharashtra BJP chief Chandrakant Patil ruled out any link of his party to the ongoing political developments but also said the BJP would "definitely consider" a proposal if it comes from Shinde to form a government.

Addressing reporters here, Pawar said, "What happened in Maharashtra, in the past two and two-and-a-half years, this is the third incident. I remember when the Uddhav Thackeray government was being formed, some of our MLAs were kept in Haryana. But later, they came out of there and returned, forming the government.

"After government formation, in the two-and-a-half years, it was working fine. Yesterday, there was a (legislative council) election. As far as NCP is concerned...not even a single vote of NCP went elsewhere.

"A candidate of our front could not win due to a shortfall in votes," he said, adding that it was the duty of the other political party to ensure the victory of their candidate.

Pawar added that cross-voting happens in such elections and there was nothing new in it. He also said the matter would be discussed as to why such a thing happened in the polls and what corrective action can be taken.

Asked about Shinde's reported demand that he be made the chief minister, Pawar said,"only you have told me this. Whether he asked someone to make him CM, I don't know. The understanding there among the three parties is that Sena has the responsibility of chief ministership. Deputy CM is with NCP."

Pawar said Thackeray has convened a meeting of his party and after that "we will talk to them".

Asked if he had spoken with Shinde, Pawar said, "I have not spoken to anyone. I also don't know where they are staying."

Asserting that the NCP, the Congress and Shiv Sena are together, Pawar said it would not be correct to take any step till a guideline is received from the Sena on what the exact issue is and how to resolve it.

Number game

With uncertainty looming over the Maharashtra MVA government's stability, the stand of 29 legislators from smaller parties and Independents is likely to be crucial.

The 288-member state Legislative Assembly has one vacancy due to the death of Shiv Sena MLA Ramesh Latke. Any party or alliance needs 144 MLAs to be in power with a simple majority.

The Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA-comprising the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress) government had won the trust vote on the floor of the Assembly on November 30, 2019, with 169 MLAs voting in favour of the coalition.

The Shiv Sena currently has 55 MLAs, the NCP has 53 legislators and the Congress has 44 MLAs.

The BJP had won 105 seats in 2019 but increased its tally to 106 after it wrested the Pandharpur Assembly seat from the NCP in a byelection.

There are 13 Independents in the House. One of them - Rajendra Patil Yedrawkar - is a minister in the MVA government from the Shiv Sena quota.

Similarly, Shankarrao Gadakh, the Krantikari Shetkari Paksh MLA from Nevasa, and Bachu Kadu of the Prahar Janshakti Party are also ministers from the Shiv Sena quota.

The Prahar Janshakti Party has two MLAs in the House.

Of the 13 Independents, six are supporters of the BJP, five have backed the Shiv Sena, while the Congress and NCP enjoy the support of one Independent each.

Vinay Kore (Jansurajya Shakti Party) and Ratnakar Gutte (Rashtriya Samaj Paksh) are also BJP's supporters.

Besides, Devendra Bhuyar (Swabhimani Paksh) and Shyamsunder Shinde (PWP) are NCP's supporters.

In the Rajya Sabha elections to six seats from Maharashtra held earlier this month, the AIMIM and the Samajwadi Party, having two MLAs each, had supported the Congress, while three MLAs of the Bahujan Vikas Aghadi (BVA) backed the BJP.

BJP fears poaching by Sena

The Bharatiya Janata Party is all set to fly its 106 Maharashtra MLAs to Gujarat on a chartered flight, as the party fears poaching by the Shiv Sena. Meanwhile, in the evening another seven Shiv Sena MLAs landed in Surat. They were flown from Delhi to Surat.

Party sources say that Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP president J P Nadda will be flying to Ahmedabad. Sources also said that former Maharashtra Chief Minister and BJP leader Devendra Fadanvis will have a meeting with Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde after landing in Surat. After that both will fly to Ahmedabad, where they will discuss future plans with senior leaders.

The BJP wants to ensure that not a single BJP MLA switches sides. So it is flying all its 106 MLAs to Gujarat, to be housed in a resort near Ahmedabad.

Sources said once the meeting of Eknath Shinde with senior BJP leaders is over, he will submit his resignation as a minister in the Uddhav Thackeray cabinet to the governor.

The entire operation started post the MLC elections. In two batches 25 Shiv Sena MLAs reached Surat early Tuesday morning, while a third group reached Surat in a flight on Tuesday evening.

Congress deputes Kamal Nath

Amid the unrest, the Congress on Tuesday deputed its senior leader and former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath as AICC observer in the state.

The decision came soon after reports that some Shiv Sena MLAs led by dissident leader Eknath Shinde are camping in Gujarat and could pose a threat to the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government.

"The Congress president has deputed Kamal Nath as All India Congress Committee (AICC) observer in the wake of recent political developments in the state, with immediate effect," said an official communication from the Congress.

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