- The Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government — the ruling alliance consisting the Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), and the Congress — is facing its biggest crisis ever, and battling for survival.
- The Shiv Sena is facing a rebellion from within led by strongman Eknath Shinde, and the main reasons cited are the inaccessibility of Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Adithya Thackeray’s meddling in governance issues and the Shiv Sena deviating from its core ideology of Hindutva.
- Shinde who has raised the banner of revolt is claiming support of 40 MLAs, and is currently staying at a resort in Guwahati, Assam.
- Tensions have been brewing in the MVA for some time now, mainly because it is an ensemble of ideologically opposite parties.
- Built on a shaky foundation, with probably the only common factor being the desire to keep the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) out of power,
- The loss in the Rajya Sabha polls and the Member of Legislative Council polls amplified the fissures.
- The Shiv Sena, since it became a part of the MVA in 2019, has been sending confusing signals about its ideological positioning.
- For the 25 years of its alliance with the BJP, the Shiv Sena identified itself and the party was built as a Right-wing party with a pronounced Hindutva stand.
- But now, after breaking alliance with the BJP and joining hands with the NCP and the Congress, is the Shiv Sena a Hindutva party or a secular party?
- Decades of being with the BJP has made many Shiv Sena MLAs uncomfortable in the new alliance, especially because the NCP and the Congress have been their political rivals for decades.
- With the NCP cornering important ministries in the MVA government, Sharad Pawar’s party has been able to utilise resources for its expansion at the cost of Shiv Sena and the Congress in Maharashtra.
- Pawar is also alleged to be shadow running the government, taking advantage of Uddhav Thackeray’s lack of administrative experience.
The biggest fear
- A fear haunting many Shiv Sena MLAs and party workers is that the party is losing the ground beneath its feet.
- By remaining in the MVA, it is losing its core vote bank to the BJP, and the Muslims and Dalits are unlikely to back the Shiv Sena as it already has the NCP and the Congress covering that space.
Rebellion in the party
- Shinde, being s shrewd politician, has justified his rebellion by saying that he is forced to do so to protect the legacy of Bal Thackeray.
- Shinde, having been long associated with the party, sees himself as a mass leader, unlike the father-son duo.
- If the MVA government is toppled and a new one is formed with the help of the BJP, Shinde could become the Deputy Chief Minister.
- But the bigger question is,
- Will Uddhav Thackery loose the Party and how?
- How does the ECI decide who gets the symbol — often the very identity of a party and its fundamental connection with voters — when parties split?
EC power on dispute over symbol
- On the question of a split in a political party outside the legislature, Para 15 of the Symbols Order, 1968, states:
- “When the Commission is satisfied… that there are rival sections or groups of a recognised political party each of whom claims to be that party the Commission may,
- After taking into account all the available facts and circumstances of the case and hearing (their) representatives… and other persons as desire to be heard decide that,
- One such rival section or group or none of such rival sections or groups is that recognised political party and the decision of the Commission shall be binding on all such rival sections or groups.”
- This applies to disputes in recognised national and state parties.
- For splits in registered but unrecognised parties, the EC usually advises the warring factions to resolve their differences internally or to approach the court.
But before 1968?
- Before 1968, the EC issued notifications and executive orders under the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961.
- The most high-profile split of a party before 1968 was that of the CPI in 1964.
- A breakaway group approached the ECI in December 1964 urging it to recognise them as CPI(Marxist).
- They provided a list of MPs and MLAs of Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and West Bengal who supported them.
- The ECI recognised the faction as CPI(M) after it found that the votes secured by the MPs and MLAs supporting the breakaway group added up to more than 4% in the 3 states.
1st case under 1968 order?
- It was the first split in the Indian National Congress in 1969.
- Indira Gandhi’s tensions with a rival group within the party came to a head with the death of President Dr Zakir Hussain on May 3, 1969.
- The Congress old guard, led by K Kamaraj, Neelam Sanjiva Reddy, S Nijalingappa and Atulya Ghosh, known as the Syndicate, nominated Reddy for the post.
- Indira, who was the Prime Minister, encouraged Vice-President VV Giri
- to contest as an Independent, and called for a “conscience vote” in defiance of the whip issued by party president Nijalingappa.
- After Giri won, Indira was expelled from the Congress, and the party split into the “old” Congress (O) led by Nijalingappa and the “new” Congress (J) led by Indira.
- The “old” Congress retained the party symbol of a pair of bullocks carrying a yoke; the breakaway faction was given the symbol of a cow with its calf.
How EC decides?
- In almost all disputes decided by the EC so far, a clear majority of party delegates/office bearers, MPs and MLAs have supported one of the factions.
- Whenever the EC could not test the strength of rival groups based on support within the party organisation (because of disputes regarding the list of office bearers), it fell back on testing the majority only among elected MPs and MLAs.
- Only in the case of the split in the AIADMK in 1987, which happened after the death of M G Ramachandran, the EC was faced with a peculiar situation.
- The group led by MGR’s wife Janaki had the support of the majority of MPs and MLAs, while J Jayalalithaa was supported by a substantial majority in the party organisation.
- But before the EC was forced to make a decision on which group should retain the party symbol, a rapprochement was reached.
- Uddhav Thackeray would now have to hit the ground, brand the gang of rebels as traitors, and prove that he is the true heir of Bal Thackeray’s political legacy.
- He has to ensure that the Shiv Sena’s reins remain with the Thackeray’s in the event Shinde gets the support of two-third of the MLAs.
- If Uddhav Thackeray wins this round, it would be difficult for the rebels in the upcoming polls.
- Along with saving his government, Uddhav Thackeray has to also save the Shiv Sena.
- The BJP is adopting a cautious approach so as to not repeat the mistake of a 5 am swearing in.
- It may have the last laugh, and in that the public mandate of 2019 will finally be honoured.
Q) How many political parties in India have the National Party Status?