With senior Shiv Sena leader and Maharashtra Cabinet minister Eknath Shinde decamping to Surat in Gujarat with several party’s MLAs, alarm bells started ringing in the Maha Vikas Aghadi ruling coalition on Tuesday. According to sources, at least three ministers belonging to the Sena are among the 30 MLAs camping with Shinde in a hotel in Surat.
The anti-defection law mandates that if two-thirds of the strength of a party agrees to a “merger”, they will not face disqualification proceedings. At present, the Sena’s current strength in the Assembly is 55 MLAs. If the rebels want to merge with BJP, 37 MLAs (two-thirds of 55) have to come together to ensure they do not face disqualification proceedings under the anti-defection law.
The BJP, which has been working to exploit the unrest in the ruling coalition, can raise the demand for a floor test in the Assembly in such a scenario. “We have been openly saying there is massive unrest within MVA,” said a senior BJP functionary requesting anonymity. “After the council polls, the numbers show how the Sena and the Congress have lost the trust of their own members and smaller allies and Independents.”
Though BJP has kept its strategy under wraps, a party insider said, “Wait and watch. The MVA will have a rough time proving its majority in a floor test.”
Shinde has reportedly been unhappy with the party as he believes he has been sidelined and is not taken into confidence when important policies and strategies are formulated. The party recently rejected his suggestion to go it alone in the Thane Municipal Corporation polls was rejected and he was told that the party would have to contest it in alliance with the Congress and the NCP.
Sena chief and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has convened a meeting of all party leaders and MLAs at noon. Allies NCP and Congress have also reached out to Thackeray, according to party insiders.
MLC poll numbers
In the legislative council elections on Monday, 285 members of the House voted. The Assembly has a strength of 288 MLAs but Sena MLA Ramesh Latke passed away last month, and NCP members Nawab Malik and Anil Deshmukh are in prison in connection with money laundering cases.
The Shiv Sena has 55 MLAs, the NCP 53, and the Congress 44. The BJP has 106 legislators. The strength of small parties and Independent MLAs is 29. Going by the results, the BJP polled 133 votes to get all its five candidates elected. The MVA allies together polled 152 votes.