Why Uddhav Thackeray might find it difficult to go with Congress-NCP | Analysis
It has been eight days since the verdict given by the people of the state is out. The people re-elected the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance to power, although with a reduced majority. The saffron combine won 161 seats as against 185 the two parties had in the last assembly. Although they got 24 seats less than their previous tally, they are clearly ahead of the 145-mark needed for simple majority in the 288-member Maharashtra Assembly.
However, the two parties have been unable to solve their dispute over sharing power and hence have not formed the government, even though they are pre-poll alliance partners. With the BJP outrightly rejecting Sena’s demand of sharing power equally (which includes chief ministership), an irked Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray is threatening to consider other options. It could mean forming a government along with the Opposition Congress and NCP or running a minority government with the help of the NCP and Congress. Although Thackeray and his aides are trying to put pressure on the BJP by reaching out to the Opposition parties, is it possible for them to actually come together and form the government?
To begin with, the BJP, which is the ruling party at the Centre, would not let the opportunity to retain power in a state like Maharashtra go when it has emerged the largest party in the state Assembly. The Governor is expected to invite the BJP to form the government as it is the single-largest party and no other combination has so far shown more numbers than the BJP’s 105 seats. In the event of a deal not being worked out, the BJP is likely to form the government first and then try to get the Sena on board or get the required number of MLAs to prove majority in the Assembly.
On the other hand, Uddhav Thackeray has only two options if he doesn’t want to go with the BJP. First, a Shiv Sena-Congress-NCP government and second, a government with outside support of Congress-NCP or one of them (probably NCP) joining the government and other (probably Congress) supporting it from outside. The three parties will have 154 members on their side—nine more than the 145 required for a simple majority. However, for this attempt to ensure a non-BJP government in Maharashtra, the most important aspect is: Will Uddhav Thackeray go or afford to go with the Congress-NCP after contesting election in alliance with BJP?
There are a few factors that would determine this.
First, the Shiv Sena’s ideology is completely different from that of the Congress and even NCP. The Sena’s stand on a range of issues, including Ram Temple and scrapping of Article 370, is completely opposite to that of Congress-NCP. Justifying the alliance to their supporters will be difficult for all three parties.
The second factor is that of trust. In Sena circles, it is known that Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray doesn’t share cordial relations with NCP chief Pawar the way his father, Sena founder Bal Thackeray, had. In fact, Uddhav doesn’t trust Pawar much, say his close aides. Most people in the Sena top brass think that the NCP chief may bring down the government before it completes its full tenure.
The third is the numbers. With the Congress unlikely to be part of the government, the Sena-NCP combine will have 110 members. This would make the government highly unstable. The Sena will be at the mercy of the Congress for every decision on the floor of the Assembly.
Fourth is the chief ministership: If a government is formed under the Sena’s leadership, who will be the chief minister of such a combination? The incumbent will need to be a mature and experienced politician to handle an unstable government and two dominating allies?
Currently, the Sena doesn’t have such a leader. Party leadership would want Aaditya Thackeray to be the chief minister, but it won’t be feasible.
And finally, the war with the BJP. If Uddhav Thackeray forms a government with BJP’s rivals, there is likely to be an all-out war between the two parties which may turn nasty. Is the Sena leadership ready for such a situation?
Experts feel the Sena’s stance is mere posturing.
“The rank and file of the Sena will prefer a government with the BJP, as the two parties are ideologically close. Besides, the Sena would not like to get chief ministership for an uncertain period, as the government would not be stable,” said political analyst Abhay Deshpande.
“Even if the Sena considers a plan to form the government with Opposition parties, its leaders would be aware of what happened in Karnataka. How HD Kumaraswamy’s government collapsed and a BJP-led government came to power in the neighbouring state,” he said.