Mumbai: This is the fourth major internal revolt within the Shiv Sena, this time led by rebel minister Eknath Shinde. It is an internal revolt that is unlike any of the previous three revolts. This revolt threatens its quintessential existence. It is a revolt that raises several questions about its timing and the manner in which it is panning out, threatening to decide the fate of Shiv Sena, as to whom it belongs to.
It is not without any rhyme or reason that the principal opposition party the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is watching the entire developments from the side-lines with circumspection. The manner in which Sena leaders are walking out of the party and straight joining the rebel Shinde camp raises several eyebrows.
But one common thread in all these four major revolts has been that the rebels, the main architects of those rebellions have accused the coterie of non-elected power brokers surrounding the party supremo.
The response to the revolt by Shiv Sainiks today has an uncanny resemblance to what had happened on that winter day in December of 1991 in Nagpur, states second winter capital, when Chhagan Bhujbal along with 18 Sena MLAs had defected.
Just as Shiv Sainiks yesterday were searching helter-skelter for senior minister Gulabrao Patil who later managed to hoodwink them and escape to Guwahati, similar scenes were witnessed in December of 1991 in Nagpur. Shiv Sainiks were searching from Bhujbal, looking for him in all possible vehicles on the roads of Nagpur.
Amidst all the drama being played out on the streets of Nagpur, the then Congress government led by chief minister Sudhakarrao Naik had bundled him to the safety of a farm house near Nagpur. He was then later smuggled out to Mumbai and the defection happened. Of the 18 rebels, 12 later returned back to the Sena fold.
Bhujbal’s grudge against the leadership then was that despite having toiled so hard to expand the party’s support base in rural hinterlands of Maharashtra, he was overlooked and instead Manohar Joshi was appointed as the Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Assembly.
Second major rebellion was led by Narayan Rane in July 2005. Although the Sena managed to nip the rebellion in the bud, 12 Sena legislators later joined the Congress. Rane later became a minister in the cabinet of then chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh. The bitter critic of Sena president Uddhav Thackeray actually heaped scorn on the coterie around the leader that denied him the audience so that his grievances could be heard.
The third major rebellion in the Sena was led by one within the Thackeray family by none other than Raj Thackeray himself in 2006. Although a few second-tier leaders like Bala Nandgaonkar, Shishir Shinde and others left Sena and joined Raj Thackeray’s new political outfit Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), very few sustained their political career in the long run.
However, it is the fourth rebellion that has been started by Eknath Shinde on the night of June 20, soon after the MVA lost face in the Legislative Council elections to the 10 Elected by MLAs constituencies, that has raised questions over – whose claim over the party is real, the tussle to claim the party’s election symbol and most importantly the application of the provisions of the Anti-Defection law of 1985 as enshrined in the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution.
Besides that, the tussle is now sharply divided between the rebel camp of Eknath Shinde and Sena president, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray over who is the real torch-bearer of Hindutva. The vertical split is not just over the ideology, but it is also got to do with what about the legacy of late Anand Dighe and supremacy over the partys Thane stronghold.
Until and unless a floor test is not held on the floor of the house, nothing can be said for sure as to which camp has the majority, or are the rebels able to avoid being disqualified from their membership of the house. As per several judgments of the Supreme Court of India (SC) the trust vote has to be held on the floor of the house and not on the lawns of Raj Bhavan or Rashtrapati Bhavan, as the case may be.
Here the roles of the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, the Governor, the Election Commission of India and the Court of Law are bound to be tested on the cornerstone of the Constitution.
The Sena petition demanding disqualification of the 12 rebel Sena MLAs for refusing to attend party meeting, before Assembly Deputy Speaker, Narhari Zirwal is bound to be contested before the court of law. In order to evade the provisions of the Anti-Defection Law, recognise the break-away faction, or its merger with any other political party, these critical issues are bound to be hotly contested before the court of law.
The removal of Eknath Shinde as the Sena Legislature Party leader by the Deputy Speaker and appointment of Ajay Choudhary has already been contested by Shinde. This matter too seems to be headed for a courtroom legal battle.
Matters have only been further exacerbated by Sena chief spokesperson Sanjay Raut as he tried to woo back the rebels to the party fold by arguing that their demand to exit the MVA over the issue of Hindutva ideology can be discussed if they appear before the party president in Mumbai, within 24 hours. This has ticked-off the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress, its (Sena’s) alliance partners.
More than the legal courtroom battle that might give rise to a landmark judgment, the political, ideological and issue of stakes claims to whose legacy will not be so easily settled so soon. The power centre outside of Matoshree and Mumbai in neighbouring Thane has always troubled the Sena leadership.