The crisis for the Shiv Sena and the ruling alliance in Maharashtra faced its moment of truth as photographs showed a sizable chunk of dissident legislators, owing allegiance to the rebel Eknath Shinde faction, posing for the camera in a decisive show of strength. Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, who came to power after the Shiv Sena ditched its longtime ally Bharatiya Janata Party to partner with rivals NCP and Congress to form government, is faced with an imminent threat to his chief ministership as well as the party slipping out of his hands.
With ‘rebel’ Shiv Sena MLA Eknath Shinde claiming the support of over 40 Sena MLAs and 7-8 Independent legislators, it seems likely that the Thackeray government may soon be on its way out. Adding insult to injury, several reports claimed that only 13 MLAs were present at a meeting called by Thackeray today. The writing, perhaps is on the wall for the MVA in a scenario, where the government neither enjoys a simple majority, which is 50% of the strength of the House plus one, nor is it able to prove it on the floor of the House.
With two NCP leaders Anil Deshmukh and Nawab Malik in jail, and with the death of Shiv Sena MLA Ramesh Latke earlier this year, the strength of the House will go down to 285. If the jailed NCP leaders are allowed to vote, then the number stands at 287. In such a case, the majority mark will be 287/2 +1, which equals to 144.
Numbers as they stand now:
BJP – 106
Others – 13
MNS – 1
Defectors – 40 + 7 or 8 = 47 or 48
Total = 167/168, Majority mark – 144
NCP – 54
Congress – 44
Shiv Sena – 55-40 = 15
BVA – 3
SP – 2
PJP – 2
INDEPENDENTS – 8 – 7 or 8 = 0 or 1
Total = 120/121
Enjoying the support of 40 Shiv Sena MLAs, Eknath Shinde appears set to bypass the anti-defection law, which under this scenario would require the support of at least 37 Shiv Sena MLAs for Shinde. Shinde will now be in a position to claim his own faction, or might merge with BJP. The BJP, on the other hand, can also support Shinde’s faction and form a government together in the state.
Sensing that he doesn’t enjoy the numbers, Uddhav Thackeray might choose to step down or win the confidence motion on the floor of the Assembly to show that he still shares the confidence of the legislature, failing which, he and his cabinet have to resign. If more than one leader stakes claim, then the Governor will ask for a composite floor test to be held. In case both factions have the same number, the Deputy-Speaker Narhari Zirwal, in absence of a full-time speaker in the Maharashtra Assembly, will have the final authority and his vote can also prove to be the deciding factor. Zirwal belongs to the MVA’s NCP.
Under the provisions of Article 174 of the Indian Constitution, the Governor has the power to dissolve the Asembly at his own discretion, when the state cabinet doesn’t have the majority. In case, no party can prove majority in the floor of the House, President’s rule will be imposed, which, at this point, seems highly unlikely.