Why are Shiv Sena rebels not returning to Mumbai for a floor test?

The Sena rebels seem to be running out of time and losing support on the ground as the political crisis enters its 2nd week. Many of them are said to have sent feelers that they would like to rejoin

The dissident Shiv Sena MLAs are lodged at Guwahati's Radisson Blu hotel
The dissident Shiv Sena MLAs are lodged at Guwahati's Radisson Blu hotel
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Sujata Anandan

Why were the Shiv Sena rebels taken away to Assam and not to the BJP-ruled states of Goa, Karnataka or Madhya Pradesh? Why couldn’t they stay in the BJP citadel of Gujarat? And, finally why is Shinde still reluctant to return and demand a floor test? These are some of the questions being asked in political circles in Maharashtra.

Photographs and videos of the rebels playing chess, eating and drinking in the Radisson Blu Hotel in Guwahati have done little to endear them to the people either in Assam or back here in Maharashtra. Juicy stories of the rebels being lavishly entertained have been doing the rounds, inviting more ridicule by the day.

Moreover, with parts of Assam reeling with flood, the MLAs in the five-star hotel come across as insensitive. The longer they stay there, the more the distance that grows between them and their constituents.

It has been suggested that Eknath Shinde opted for Guwahati because of the Kamakhya Temple there. Known to be a Tantrik and Assam and the temple known for Tantrik rites, Shinde presumably was confident that he would be able to invoke the blessings of the goddess. While he did visit the temple to pray, it is not certain how pleased the goddess is with him since the buzz is that half the MLAs have sent feelers to the party, indicating their willingness to rejoin the party.

It is partly because the rebels are waking up to the legal hurdles they face. It is also because the Shiv Sena is not just a regional party but a well-knit grassroot organisation and a movement. It is the movement which gives every Shiv Sainik his unique identity on the ground. And by all accounts the rebels are still not receiving much support on the ground. Sooner or later, they will have to return to their constituency to test it.

In the meanwhile, legal eagles believe that the rebels have the option of merging with the BJP—which would give them short term reprieve but which would basically seal their political future. The other option open to them is to merge with the Prahar Party, which has two MLAs in the Maharashtra Assembly. Both of them are recognised as Independent MLAs.

One of them is the founder Bachchu Kadu, who supports the BJP and is known for his aggressive militant tactics of terrorising officials, beating up opponents and otherwise being a nuisance - everything that the Shiv Sena was under Bal Thackeray, in fact.

The Sena MLAs would however rather not play second fiddle to Kadu, who is unlikely to give them a free rein and the prospect of becoming Independent MLAs from being the ruling party MLAs is clearly not alluring enough.

An Assembly session would have to be called shortly to meet the requirements of a functioning government but without the rebel MLAs, the MVA still has more numbers than the BJP in the House. The legalities of conducting business without the rebels is being examined and Shinde would have to thwart it through judicial intervention, if possible.

With Shinde facing much loss of face and capital, there is also the suspicion that many of the rebel MLAs may actually vote with Uddhav Thackeray in the House. That suspicion is why Shinde is said to be reluctant to bring back the MLAs for a floor test in the Assembly.

The political drama enters the second week, possibly a decisive week, with time running out for rebels. And with Sharad Pawar saying openly that it is his duty to protect his friend Bal Thackeray’s son and political heir, emotions on the streets are running high—something that the rebels will have to contend with.

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Published: 26 Jun 2022, 8:55 PM