After Speaker’s Ruling, Uddhav Thackeray’s Test May Be Keeping Flock Intact

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After Speaker's Ruling, Uddhav Thackeray's Test May Be Keeping Flock Intact

Uddhav Thackeray termed the Speaker’s order a “ploy to kill democracy”.

Mumbai:

Jolted twice in less than a year after both the Election Commission and now the Maharashtra Speaker have recognised the Eknath Shinde faction as the real Shiv Sena, the big challenge for the Uddhav Thackeray group may now be keeping their flock together.

The faction is also likely to find itself on weaker footing both in the Maha Vikas Aghadi coalition in the state as well as the INDIA bloc, which may be more important in the short term given that the seat-sharing talks for the Lok Sabha election are underway. 

Experts said that while the Shiv Sena (UBT) approaching the Supreme Court against Speaker Rahul Narwekar’s order is a given, just like it had after the Election Commission order in February 2023, the legal battle is likely to be a long one. Uddhav Thackeray has, in fact, already announced that the party is going to take the legal route and also check whether the verdict is a fit case for contempt of court. 

More Defections?

The experts said the more immediate concern, however, is whether Team Uddhav – which has already been reduced to 16 MLAs after Mr Shinde’s rebellion last year – can prevent more leaders and workers from crossing over to the rebel camp. They pointed out that while the Shiv Sena (UBT) was expecting the Speaker’s verdict not to go in its favour, it will still hurt morale, not just among senior leaders but also the grassroots workers.

Top leaders like Mr Thackeray and MP Sanjay Raut have dismissed the possibility of this happening in the past, stating that the party has been cleansed of “traitors” and none remain. But it will be interesting to see how things play out as the Lok Sabha polls and the Assembly elections, which are also less than nine months away, get closer.

Seat-Sharing

After weeks of wrangling following the Shiv Sena (UBT) laying claim on 23 of the 48 seats in Maharashtra, the party and allies Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (Sharad Pawar faction) held an important meeting on Tuesday and signalled that talks were heading in the right direction. 

But, given Mr Raut’s earlier comments on 23 seats as well as seat-sharing talks with the Congress “starting from zero” because of its performance in the state during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, political observers are not ruling out the possibility of the Congress and the NCP now demanding a greater share of the pie.

Depending on how the legal battle unfolds, a similar situation may also prevail when a  seat-sharing agreement is hammered out for the Assembly elections. 

Sympathy Factor

The observers said one thing that may work in the favour of the Shiv Sena (UBT) is public sympathy, provided the party gets its messaging right. In the Shiv Sena’s pockets of influence, people still have a strong connection with party founder Balasaheb Thackeray and could feel that his son, Uddhav, has been wronged. 

Reacting to Mr Narwekar’s verdict on Wednesday, a defiant Uddhav Thackeray said the order was a violation of the Supreme Court order and a “ploy to kill democracy”. 

“The way he (Mr Shinde) made Narwekar sit, it was clear that he was in collusion. I had expressed my doubts yesterday that this is a ploy to kill democracy… We will see whether a case of contempt of the Supreme Court can be made out or not,” he said.  

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