Maha Vikas Aghadi, India’s opposition unity experiment, at risk
- Uddhav Thackeray's Maha Vikas Aghadi government is at risk
- Eknath Shinde, a Shiv Sena MLA, has moved to a Surat hotel with 21 others
- In the event of a trust vote, MVA will need more outside support to sustain
India, the world’s largest democracy, has been facing accusations of turning into a one-party state dominated by the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for the last seven years. In all this time, one critical challenge in front of India’s electorate has been the absence of a cohesive opposition that can battle the electoral might of the BJP. The Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA), a rag-tag coalition of political parties on the opposite ends of the ideological spectrum, was perhaps the only successful experiment. Now, even that is at risk.
Leading the effort to sink the Opposition ship, is Maharashtra minister Eknath Shinde. Minister of urban development in the MVA government, Shinde has been associated with the Shiv Sena since the 1980s. The 58-year-old was vastly influenced by Shiv Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray. But now, when the reins of the party are with Balasaheb’s son Uddhav, Shinde feels more drawn to the cause of Hindutva espoused by the BJP.
Eknath Shinde is reported to have moved to a hotel in Gujarat’s Surat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state and one ruled by the BJP, along with 21 other MLAs. If he and the MLAs go to the BJP, the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress alliance government will fall, paving the way for BJP to return to power.
The numbers game
The Maharashtra legislative assembly has 288 members. With one legislator having died (Ramesh Latke, Shiv Sena), to total strength currently stands at 287. As such, the majority mark is at 144 in case a no-confidence motion is triggered.
Right now, the Maha Vikas Aghadi has 152 MLAs and the BJP has 106. If 22 MLA’s leave the coalition, there is a possibility of the government falling. However, the MLA’s who defect will have to return as MLA’s in bypolls.
What is Shinde’s motivation?
Eknath Shinde is said to have felt side-lined within the MVA government. On Tuesday, Shinde said, “I am with Hindutva and Shiv Sena has left Hindutva. I will not return to Shiv Sena.” Shinde’s comment is in line with the BJP’s narrative that the Shiv Sena has given up on its commitment to the cause of Hindutva under the leadership of Uddhav Thackeray and has made an ideological compromise by striking a deal with the Congress.
MVA leaders, however, feel that Shinde’s move to take MLAs to a hotel in Surat is a well-crafted move orchestrated by the BJP. Nitin Raut of the Congress, who is a minister in the MVA government, said it was a pattern with the BJP to try and topple opposition governments as part of its ‘Operation Kamal’.
Meanwhile, Sanjay Raut, one of Shiv Sena’s most visible national faces and the editor of party newspaper ‘Saamna’ said Eknath Shinde is an old friend. “He (Eknath Shinde) is our old friend. Everyone knows why we left BJP and Eknath Shinde is also a witness to that,” Raut said.