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With Uddhav Thackeray's exit, Devendra Fadnavis once again takes centre stage in Maharashtra politics

With Thackeray stepping down, speculations are rife that Fadnavis would be called to form the next government, as the rebel camp of Sena has also expressed its intent to ally with the BJP.

June 29, 2022 / 11:23 PM IST
Maharashtra BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis (File image)

Maharashtra BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis (File image)

Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Devendra Fadnavis, who is also the former chief minister of Maharashtra and the incumbent leader of opposition, is considered to be back at the centre stage of state politics following the exit of his top rival and Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray.

Thackeray, after heading a three-party coalition government for the last two-and-a-half years, announced his resignation on June 29 as the Supreme Court refused to stay the governor-ordered floor test for tomorrow.

Hit by a massive rebellion within the Sena's legislative ranks, Thackeray had no other option apart from resigning or facing a defeat in the floor test tomorrow, analysts say.

With Thackeray stepping down, speculations are rife that Fadnavis would be called to form the next government, as the rebel camp of Sena has also expressed its intent to ally with the BJP.

Top critic of Thackeray-led government

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Fadnavis, after heading the BJP-Sena coalition government between 2014 and 2019, was considered to be politically outsmarted following the 2019 assembly polls. Despite the BJP emerging as the single-largest party with 106 seats, it failed to form the government as an unlikely post-poll alliance of Congress, NCP and Shiv Sena emerged to the fore.

Fadnavis had attempted to break the coalition before its formation, as he had tied up with senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar to form a government that lasted only for three days.

Despite losing the chief ministerial role, Fadnavis chose not to take a backseat in the state's political circles. As the leader of opposition, he emerged as the top critic of the Thackeray-led government. He had also reiterated that the MVA government was unlikely to survive a full five year-term,

"The BJP will have no role to play in their downfall, but this alliance is of conflicting ideologies and formed only for the sake of power...They will crumble due to their internal contradictions," he had said in July 2020.

Treading cautiously following Shinde's rebellion

After Eknath Shinde, Thackeray's once most-trusted lieutenant, went incommunicado with around a dozen Sena legislators last week, the BJP trod cautiously.

The Fadnavis-led camp waited for the Sena rebellion to swell, before openly backing the dissident group. It was only on June 28, when Fadnavis flew to Delhi for a meeting with BJP chief JP Nadda, the party approached the governor for a floor test.

"We have given a letter to Maharashtra governor and told him that the 39 Shiv Sena MLAs are saying that they don't want to be with NCP and Congress government. It shows that the Maha Vikas Aghadi government has lost the majority," Fadnavis had said, following the meeting.

Number's edge with Fadnavis camp

In the 288-member Maharashtra assembly, the halfway majority mark stands at 145. Sena (55), NCP (53) and Congress (44) are currently in power, with a total of 155 MLAs. However, the rebellion in Sena ranks has brought down the party's effective strength to 16.

In case of a floor test, the Maha Vikas Aghadi government is expected to demonstrate a total strength of 113 MLAs, which will be below the halfway majority mark.

If Fadnavis moves towards staking a claim for government, he will be able to demonstrate the support of 106 BJP MLAs, along with the 39 Sena rebels. This takes the combined electoral strength to around 145.

The Supreme Court, however, noted in its order that the result of the floor test would be subject to the action against the 16 rebel Sena MLAs, against whom the disqualification notice has been stayed till July 11. If the 16 rebel legislators end up being disqualified, then the BJP and Shinde-led Sena camp will have to rely on independent legislators and smaller parties, if they are invited to form the next government.
Mohammed Uzair Shaikh
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