This is not the first time that Shiv Sainiks rebelled from the party and surprisingly most of them left Sena because of Uddhav Thackeray. Grassroot level leader Chagan Bhujbal had started his political career with the Shiv Sena, but left the party in 1991 and joined the Congress. Later, after Sharad Pawar decided to split from the Congress and form his own party, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Bhujbal went along with him. Bhujbal was upset with Manohar Joshi’s increasing stature in the party and said he wanted to form Shiv Sena(B). Bhujbal was instantly sacked by Bal Thackeray. Sixteen MLAs who also left the party later wanted to retract but the Speaker didn’t accept it.
In 2005, Uddhav Thackeray’s cousin, Raj Thackeray quit the Shiv Sena due to his fight with Uddhav Thackrey. Another big incident came in July 2005 after a direct fight between Narayan Rane and Uddhav Thackeray. Rane saw Uddhav Thackeray’s emergence eclipsing his political life and wanted to split the party with 40 of 62 MLAs, an attempt finally foiled by the Shiv Sena. Later, 12 MLAs defied the party whip and joined the Congress along with Rane. Relations between Thackeray and Rane finally ruptured completely in 2005, when Rane submitted his resignation from the party. In response Thackeray and Shiv Sena expelled Rane from the party on 3 July 2005, accusing Rane of “gangsterism” and “betrayal of the party. Chhagan Bhujbal, Narayan Rane, Raj Thackeray and now Eknath Shinde.
Rane was made a minister in the NCP-Congress government led by Vilasrao Deshmukh. Till the time Balasaheb Thackeray was alive, he could control the damage done by Uddhav but now there is no veteran in Shiv Sena to control Uddhav and his temperament. Above all, the leaders of the Uddhav generation all are of his age and they refuse to bow down to undue weight. The era under Balasaheb’s leadership was way different than the present time under Uddhav’s headship.
With the support of more than 35 MLAs, the coalition government is now in real trouble. Uddhav Thackeray may lose power instead of heeding to rebel leader Eknath Shinde’s demand that the party drop the alliance, and jointly revive its alliance with the BJP and the Maharashtra government. When the current alliance was formed in 2019, the sole credit was given to Sharad Pawar, the old warhorse. It was assumed that as long as he was on board, the alliance would survive. But now a crisis has enveloped the government and he has said it is an internal matter of the Shiv Sena. He silently washed his hands off the crisis or maybe he is unable to resolve the mishap.
Shiv Sena dissident leader Eknath Shinde, claims the support of 40 MLAs — 33 Shiv Sena and seven independents, while the picture shared by the Shinde camp has only 35 MLAs. The political crisis in the state began a day after the MLC elections when some MVA MLAs cross-voted in the favour of BJP. The Shiv Sena, which heads the MVA government, has 55 MLAs, followed by allies NCP (53) and the Congress (44) in the 288-member Maharashtra assembly where the current simple majority mark is 144.
The Shiv Sena had walked out of a pre-poll alliance with the BJP after the 2019 assembly elections to form the government with Sharad Pawar’s NCP and the Congress following differences with the BJP on the chief minister’s post. There was unease in a section of the Shiv Sena over the growing stature of Aaditya Thackeray, Uddhav’s son and minister, in party affairs.
Shinde and his followers have stepped up their rebellion with a letter to the Governor and Deputy Speaker in the state assembly. The letter by 34 rebel MLAs — four of them Independents — declares Shinde their leader. Besides appointing Shinde, the leader of the Shiv Sena Legislature Party, the rebel faction, in a resolution, said there is “enormous discontent” among the party cadre over the alliance with ideologically opposed Congress and Sharad Pawar’s NCP. It also claimed “great dissatisfaction” over corruption in the government, corruption by ministers like Nawab Malik and former minister Anil Deshmukh and administrative issues.
The Sena has 55 MLAs, of whom 40 are learnt to be with Eknath Shinde. If they resign, the Sena’s number comes down to 15. To make his claim that he heads the real Sena official, Mr Shinde has to approach the Election Commission, which will adjudicate the dispute. Eknath Shinde can split the party in the assembly but needs the support of at least 37 MLAs to protect them from the anti-defection law.