The Maharashtra political plot has thickened with the rebel Shiv Sena faction led by Eknath Shinde building up a clear majority. The leadership of Uddhav Thackeray has been dealt with a telling blow, throwing a huge question mark over the Thackeray legacy and leadership. Some of the key complaints of the Shinde loyalists were that Thackeray was not accessible to discuss issues and projects and displeasure in the alliance with Congress and NCP. The fact that Shinde earlier rejected the compromise formula of Thackeray who offered to step down from the chief ministership chair, is an indication that the problem was more to do with the alliance. The writing on the wall was clear that the Shinde camp was trying to find comfort with the BJP.
While the rebels may not merge into the BJP to bypass the defection law, it is clear that the group is unanimous in aligning with BJP to form a new government and that is where all the political drama is headed to. The question, therefore, is whether BJP can bounce back or whether the Maha Vikas Aghadi will continue to roll.
The NCP has reiterated its support for Uddhav Thackeray with Ajit Pawar saying that the party will hold on to Thackeray till the end. The NCP does not have much of a choice in this politically fluid situation, especially when the Thackeray group is reduced to a minority and is destined to be relegated to the equation. NCP supremo Sharad Pawar’s late claim that it is not established that the alliance government is in a minority and that the dispensation will pull it through the term appears to be a face-saving show of optimism in contrast to what is building up in the background. There is a complete vote of no-confidence against Thackeray and it is time he realises that the tide is not in his favour. Thackeray must put the party ahead and save it from an imminent split. He has to gracefully step down and allow the Shinde-led group to take over, even if it means there is a re-alignment with the BJP. Thackeray has himself to be blamed for ignoring the warning signs that emerged, not once, but twice. Ten days ago, a cross-voting by Sena and Congress members in the Rajya Sabha elections gave the BJP the advantage of one more seat. The cross-voting happened again at the Legislative Council elections on June 20. Thackeray should have focussed on dousing the flames of rebellion instead of allowing the situation to fester.
The road for the rebel Sena legislators is as clear as daylight and leads only to the BJP. This could deal a body blow to the legacy of Thackerays and Shiv Sena as a party. It could be reduced to a minuscule minority like the Congress in Goa in 2019 following the merger of a two-third group into the BJP. It is to be seen if this is the end game for Uddhav Thackeray.