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Eknath Shinde claims 40, it could be game over for Uddhav Thackeray; tussle now for ‘real Sena’

If Shinde is able to hold on to the numbers, he can seek a separate group status. Whether this group wants to be recognised as the real Sena, or a new outfit or merge with any other party remains to be determined.

Written by Shubhangi Khapre | Mumbai |
Updated: June 23, 2022 6:40:18 pm
Eknath Shinde, Shiv Sena, MVA, Maharashtra political crisis, Uddhav Thackeray, Political Pulse, Indian expressEknath Shinde with rebel MLAs in Guwahati. (PTI)

As the Shiv Sena rebel group led by Eknath Shinde crossed the magic figure of 37 (it claimed to have got 40 of 55 by Thursday morning), it has set the ball rolling for the next course of action towards government formation in Maharashtra.

The 37 number takes the rebel group past the two-third mark to avoid the anti-defection law.

“We have crossed the first hurdle. Now, technicalities to assert our identity through formation of a party under Shinde’s leadership are underway. We are fighting to establish that the Eknath Shinde-led group is the real Sena,” a rebel MLA requesting anonymity said.

If Shinde is able to hold on to the numbers, he can seek a separate group status. Whether this group wants to be recognised as the real Sena, or a new outfit or merge with any other party remains to be determined.

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A senior BJP leader requesting anonymity said the party would not impose any conditions on Shinde, should he come with them to form a new government. “It is for Eknath Shinde to decide whether he would like to remain a separate party or merge in the BJP,” the leader said.

Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray is counting on the rebellion being confined to just the MLAs now in Guwahati, and not swaying either the cadre or office-bearers. He believes this would ensure that it is he who will be seen as holding on to “the real Sena” and retain its symbol of bow and arrow. However, Uddhav’s transfer Wednesday night from the official residence to his own personal accommodation was a signal that he is reconciled to power passing out of his hands.

Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut said, “Those who have rebelled are not true Sainiks of Bal Thackeray. We are also in touch with some of these rebels. Once they come to Mumbai, facts will come out. Some went because of fear of investigation by Central agencies… When a floor test takes place, the real numbers will be known. The Shiv Sena is strong.”

As for the ruling Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition, members Congress and NCP seem dejected about any chance of their government surviving after the Sena split.

The 18 MLAs who are still with Uddhav put the total MVA numbers as of Thursday morning at 115 – along with the Congress’s 44 and the NCP’s 53. That is 29 short of the half-way mark of 144 in the Assembly, whose strength is down to 287 after the death of a Sena MLA. While the MVA could have once hoped to rustle together that number from the smaller parties and Independents, that is now unlikely given how the winds are blowing.

Already seven MLAs belonging to smaller parties or Independents have gravitated towards the Shinde group. They include two members of the Prahar Janashakti led by Bacchu Kadu.

An indication of where these floating votes were headed came in the recent Rajya Sabha and Legislative Council polls where the BJP got additional 17 and 27 votes, respectively – logically from among them.

The BJP is the single-largest party with 106 MLAs in the current House, and with Shinde’s claim of 40, it seems home and dry.

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