All eyes on Uddhav Thackeray as leadership crisis within Shiv Sena intensifies

MUMBAI: While the main opposition party BJP is in the ‘wait and watch’ mode, all eyes are now on Maharashtra Chief Minister and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray to see how will he tackle the leadership crisis within his party and save the MVA coalition government. As the rebels led by Eknath Shinde, who calls himself a ‘true Shiv Sainik and Bala Saheb Bhakt,’ have gained more strength, the Shiv Sena has also thrown indications that Uddhav may quit as CM and the party is ready to sit in the opposition.

Shiv Sena president, who has recently vacated his official bungalow and moved to his family residence ‘Matooshri’ amid the political crisis, has not resigned yet and is relying on his crisis managers who are holding back-channel negotiations to bring back the dissident party MLAs.

In a direct and emotional appeal to his dissident MLAs, Sena chief has asked them to come and meet him ”face-to-face” and discuss his government’s shortcomings and all issues ailing them. Thackeray even said that his “resignation letter is ready” and that “if Sena MLAs say it to me, I will quit.” 

Being power-hungry, he said, is not in his DNA. “I am the son of Bala Saheb,” he reminded his party, underscoring the fact that his father abstained from taking any post in multiple governments that included his party.  

Amid the leadership crisis in the party, the Congress and Sharad Pawar’s party – the alliance partners of Shiv Sena in Maharashtra – have said that they are with Thackeray.  “We will fight together. The MVA will stay together,” senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said.   

NCP chief Sharad Pawar too has extended his unconditional support to Shiv Sena chief, who has called a key meeting of all party MLAs to decide on the next course of action. As the crisis grew deeper in the Shiv Sena, the party sought the disqualification of 12 rebel MLAs, including Eknath Shinde. However, the rebel leader hit back, saying “You cannot scare us.” 

Thirty-seven MLAs have written to the Governor and Deputy Speaker, naming Eknath Shinde the legislature party leader. The move came shortly after Team Uddav Thackeray filed disqualification applications for 12 rebels with the Deputy Speaker. “Who are you trying to scare? We know your make-up and the law too! According to the 10th Schedule to the Constitution (Schedule) the whip is for assembly work, not for meetings. There are numerous Supreme Court decisions in this regard,” tweeted Eknath Shinde.

Shinde, camping in BJP-ruled Assam with rebel MLAs, has demanded that the Sena must break its alliance with the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party, saying the party leaders suffered the most in the last two-and-a-half years of the coalition’s rule.

Shinde is appearing to be holding a tight grip on the Shiv Sena, as the strength of MLAs supporting him is expected to cross 50 as more legislators are likely to reach Guwahati on Friday thus further deepening the political crisis in Maharashtra.

It now seems that the legacy of Bal Thackeray, who founded Shiv Sena, has slipped from the hands of Uddhav Thackeray with the rebellion of Eknath Shinde as he claims of being a true Shivsainik, triggering the battle of who holds the true legacy of the late Sena founder.

The political crisis in Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in Maharashtra erupted after party legislators joined a rebellion led by Eknath Shinde who is staying at a hotel in Guwahati. Shinde camp has claimed the support of 46 MLAs, which includes 37 Shiv Sena MLAs and nine independents. The rebel MLAs who are at a hotel in Guwahati since June 20, authorised Shinde on June 23 to decide on a further course of action.

On the other hand, the BJP is waiting for the final outcome of the political fight between the Shiv Sena led by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and dissident Sena MLAs led by rebel party leader Eknath Shinde, which has fast snowballed into a political fight over who will now lead the party.

BJP, which is allegedly being held responsible for the political turmoil within Shiv Sena, has termed the political crisis as the latter`s “internal party affairs”. Speaking on the political slugfest within the Shiv Sena, the saffron party says that sooner or later such a crisis was bound to happen within the Shiv Sena, which compromised Hindutva for staying in power in Maharashtra.

From the beginning, the BJP has called the MVA government as an “unholy alliance”, while saying that the people of Maharashtra had given the mandate to the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance government, but Uddhav Thackeray betrayed the BJP to become the Chief Minister and instead formed an alliance with the Congress and the NCP.

Meanwhile, the BJP, which was deceived by NCP chief`s nephew Ajit Pawar earlier in 2020, is trying to make political moves cautiously this time and is waiting for the final outcome of the ongoing fight within the Shiv Sena.

The BJP is also awaiting the final decision of Uddhav Thackeray over Eknath Shinde`s offer wherein the latter had advised the Maharashtra Chief Minister to break alliance with the NCP and Congress and again form the government with the BJP.

Several BJP leaders believe that if both the MVA government and the Shiv Sena collapse and if there is no other way to save them, then Uddhav Thackeray might again join hands with the old ally BJP.