Highlights

  • The rise and fall of the Maha Vikas Aghadi
  • Eknath Shinde sworn in as CM, MVA falls

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The rise and fall of the Maha Vikas Aghadi

As the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi steps down from power in Maharasthra, we chart the course of the rise and fall of this 'unholy alliance'. 

Not only the former ally BJP, but even the rebels who ensured the fall of Uddhav Thackeray-led government in Maharashtra repeatedly called the ruling coalition an unholy alliance. The Maha Vikas Aghadi, the formal term, used to describe the alliance between Hindutva-affiliate Shiv Sena and its once bitter opponents Congress and Nationalist Congress Party was formed in during a most unsuspected political churn in India’s political history.

Masterminded by PM Modi’s political guru Sharad Pawar, the Aghadi, which literally means front, fell flat as a coup within the Sena, outsmarted even one of the shrewdest politicians from the Opposition camp.

The rise of the MVA

In October 2019, the BJP - Shiv Sena Alliance fought the Maharashtra Assembly Elections together, and won a comprehensive 161 seats. The NCP and Congress won 54 and 44 seats each. But the Hindutva allies, despite having a majority, failed to form a government as Sena called for a rotational chief minister arrangement. Pages of Sena mouthpiece Saamna carried criticism for incumbent CM Devendra Fadnavis and heaped praise for the Maratha leader Sharad Pawar.

The BJP, which was no longer a smaller partner in the alliance, stuck to its gun. The partnership broke on November 8 of 2019 with Sena leader, who edits Saamna, stating that his Maharashtra-based outfit didn’t need BJP to form a government.

4 weeks of political see-saws, parleys and intense speculations culminated in Uddhav, the first person from the Thackeray clan agreeing to take a seat of power. The photographer son and reluctant son of Sena co-founder Bal Thackeray, was to become the 19th chief minister of the Western Indian state, but Devendra Fadnavis had a trick up his sleeve.

Pawar’s ambitious nephew Ajit Pawar, a chief minister aspirant, showed up on news wire video feeds taking oath as Fadnavis’ deputy in the Raj Bhavan. The NCP chief either was unaware of nephew’s mutiny or set up a trap for the BJP leader.

The Aghadi moved Supreme Court which ordered a floor test, like Uddhav Fadnavis too didn’t take it and quit 80 hours after taking oath. Ajit, as many described him as Pawar’s Trojan horse, returned to NCP fold.

Finally, a Thackeray became CM for the first time on November 28, 2019.

Also Watch: The India Story Episode 13 | Maharashtra political crisis: A game of twists and turns

The fall of the MVA

The Sena adopted a softer stand on the core issue of Hindutva, the so-called unholy alliance had a largely smooth sailing till the Maharashtra Legislative Council polls on 20 June 2022. The BJP got the better of the Aghadi by winning more seats than predicted, as 12 Sena MLAs reportedly cross-voted in favour of the BJP.

Then came the news of senior aide of Uddhav, Eknath Shinde fleeing to BJP-ruled Gujarat with a pack of 11 rebel lawmakers. The message of rebels from a luxury hotel in Surat was explicit: they won’t compromise on the Hindutva ideology laid bare by Bala Thackeray. In simple terms, Uddhav’s softer Hindutva was unacceptable to them.

Emissaries were sent to placate the rebels; actions were taken but to no avail. Eknath Shinde, who was removed from key legislative post, in response called for patch up with old ally BJP and snapping ties with Congress and the NCP.

Amid an impasse, the rebels moved to a hotel in Assam, and their tribe grew to 40 legislators. Sitting over 2700 kilometers in India’s commercial capital, Mumbai, Uddhav realized the patch up was impossible and showed first sign of demitting power. He shifted from the official CM residence in Varsha, to his ancestral home of Matoshree.

However, Aghadi kept the fight going with Deputy Speaker Narahari Zirwal from NCP sending disqualification notices to 16 rebels from the Shinde camp. He was acting on a petition filed by the Sena on June 24. Sitting in Guwahati, Shinde camp moved the apex court seeking to thwart speaker’s move. In a reprieve for rebels the court stayed their disqualification, sought responses from all the concerned and scheduled a verdict on July 11.

While the political chess was on, Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari was recuperating from coronavirus for much of the play, but as the game moved to the Apex Court, he had recovered from the deadly viral infection. Following the SC disqualification stay, Fadnavis met him in person, sought a floor test which he granted.

The Aghadi moved court which sided with the Governor. The apex court saw no merit in Aghadi’s argument that the rebel MLAs who have defected cannot represent the will of the people, and thus a floor test cannot be conducted until the matter of their disqualification is resolved.

944 days after he took oath, Uddhav stepped down as the chief minister.

Also Read: Maharashtra: Shinde govt overturns Uddhav Thackeray's Aarey move

What lies next for the Shiv Sena?

The Sena draws its identity entirely from one family - the Thackerays. Founded by Bala Thackeray as a right-wing, pro-Marathi, and Hindu nationalist movement that birthed a political party, the Shiv Sena was led by the hardline leader for decades.

With Uddhav stating that he will return to Sena Bhavan, the seat of party’s power in Dadar, and the rebels also claiming that they will continue to be Shiv Sainiks, an interesting battle over Bala Thackrey’s legacy is bound to ensue much like the one that had ensued between Uddhav and his cousin Raj Thackeray when the Hindutva icon had passed away in 2012.

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