The seismic revolt within the Shiv Sena which pulled down the MVA government had more to do with longstanding resentments within the party than issues of governance. While BJP had been relentlessly working to topple the government, here it was helped by a coup which had been building independently within the Sena.
Indeed, this was acknowledged by chief minister Thackeray at the cabinet meeting on Wednesday evening. “He said I have been betrayed by my own people,” said NCP leader and water resources minister Jayant Patil.
That rebel leader Eknath Shinde’s resentment had been building for a long time was no secret. The issue he raised in public was that the Shiv Sena’s Hindutva agenda was being scuttled by its alliance with the Congress and NCP. However, the other MLAs who joined him were more candid. They found Uddhav Thackeray too inaccessible and felt that the NCP, which controlled the finance department, was trying to scuttle the Sena by denying funds to its MLAs. They also pointed fingers at Thackeray’s reliance on a coterie of partymen who were entrusted with decision making and wielded more power than the Sena’s mass leaders like Shinde. This was the same grouse that had been raised by leaders including Narayan Rane and Raj Thackeray when they left the party almost two decades ago. Clearly, little has changed in Thackeray’s leadership style since then.
However, it was the BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis who managed to steer the rebellion towards an endgame for the MVA. The MLC polls, which were held a day before the revolt broke out, exposed the cross-voting within the alliance and Fadnavis warned of worse to come. “It is discontent within the MVA that has come out,” he had warned. Shinde and his group of rebel MLAs left for Surat within hours of the MLC polls results.
The revolt, which began with Shinde and a group of 20 Sena MLAs, ended up hijacking the Sena’s legislature party. The Sena blamed BJP for the conspiracy, pointing out that the ED and IT cases lodged against its leaders had made them vulnerable. However, the Shinde faction ended up capturing the Sena’s legislature party, with 39 of the party’s 55 MLAs.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar has been the trouble-shooter for the alliance and had played a key role in forming the coalition government. However, so deep was the rift within the Shiv Sena that it was too late to intervene. Even as it backed Thackeray, NCP maintained the revolt was an internal matter of the Shiv Sena.
“The chief minister managed to keep the coalition going but failed to address the resentment within his own party,” said political analyst Abhay Deshpande. Unlike the Sena-BJP government which had been formed when Bal Thackeray was the party chief, this time there was a Thackeray in the chair. “This made him even more inaccessible. In Bal Thackeray’s times, people were able to complain to him about the Shiv Sena’s own chief minister and he ended up changing him,” said Deshpande.