Loss, defeat, stalemate? How the Maharashtra crisis could unfold

Updated on Jun 22, 2022 12:58 PM IST

Here’s where the numbers stand: There are 288 members in Maharashtra assembly, of which one seat is vacant. The effective strength of the House, therefore, is 287.

The political turmoil in Maharashtra that erupted on Tuesday morning can evolve in several distinct ways. (HT file) PREMIUM
The political turmoil in Maharashtra that erupted on Tuesday morning can evolve in several distinct ways. (HT file)

The political turmoil in Maharashtra that erupted on Tuesday morning can evolve in several distinct ways. The situation is currently fluid – rebel Shiv Sena minister Eknath Shinde and a number of other lawmakers loyal to him are currently camped in a hotel in Surat, the Sena has sent emissaries to meet him but the outcome of the meeting is not clear, and the Maha Vikas Aghadi government appears embattled, though still fighting for political survival.

Here’s where the numbers stand: There are 288 members in the state assembly, of which one seat is vacant. The effective strength of the House, therefore, is 287.

The Shiv Sena has 55 members, the Nationalist Congress Party 53 (of this, two people, Nawab Malik and Anil Deshmukh, are in jail, and therefore, will likely not be allowed to participate in assembly proceedings) and Congress 44. They have the support of three smaller parties and nine independent members. Together, the MVA has 166 members.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has 106 lawmakers. It is backed by two smaller parties and four independents. Together, its strength is 112. To be sure, in the recently concluded Rajya Sabha polls and legislative council elections, BJP’s candidates pulled in more support than this stated strength.

Outside these two formations, there are nine lawmakers across six parties.

From here, the situation can evolve into one of four scenarios.

Shinde prevails: It is unclear just how many lawmakers are with the Maharashtra urban development minister – estimates vary widely between a dozen and close to 30, with the likely number around the mid-point of this range. Either way, this much is clear – to legally break away from the Sena and not attract disqualification under the anti-defection law, Shinde needs two-thirds of the Sena’s strength, ie, 37 members on his side. If he manages to get this magic number , then his faction will be able to legally break off from the Sena and back the BJP if he so chooses. In such a scenario, the MVA will find it very tough to prove its majority in a floor test and the government will likely fall.

Shinde can’t get enough numbers: If the Sena doesn’t manage to mollify the rebels, led by Shinde and they don’t have the numbers to avoid anti-defection penalties, then there is only one route available to the latter: resign and bring down the strength of the House. In the past, such resignations have pulled down state governments, notably in Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka. But, in this case, if Shinde and his followers are unable to muster two-thirds strength and resign, it will still be tough for the BJP to cobble together the numbers to prevail in a floor test. Bringing down the strength of the House may, in turn, prove advantageous to the incumbent.

Stalemate: If Shinde doesn’t reach an agreement with either the BJP or MVA, and his followers dig their heels in, it may trigger a constitutional crisis in the state. In such a scenario, either the governor can recommend President’s Rule, or order a floor test (alternatively, if President’s Rule is imposed, it will almost certainly be challenged in court, and precedents show that the Supreme Court will favour a trust vote). Even in this situation, a floor test is the likely outcome, and one in which the MVA may have an advantage.

Uddhav prevails: Since the crisis broke on Tuesday morning, chief minister Uddhav Thackeray has been huddled in meetings, his emissaries have met Shinde and his party has adopted a defiant posture. If there’s a breakthrough between the Thackeray scion and his one-time lieutenant – the two spoke on the phone in the evening for about 10 minutes, said reports – it will mean that the CM has averted the biggest crisis of his political career and managed to save the government. But Shinde will return likely in an expanded role and the rebellion is sure to hurt the authority and stature of Thackeray.

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