Uddhav Thackeray who became the Chief Minister; thanks to an alliance named Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA), a three party coalition including Shiv Sena, Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) — is now giving clear hints that he is looking for alliance partners beyond the MVA.
Since the time Uddhav lost his chair of CM, after a rebellion led by his own party MLA Eknath Shinde, where more than 40 MLAs and over a dozen MPs decided to abandon him — has acted in a way which clearly shows that he is no longer interested in continuing with the MVA.
Let’s see his few acts, first he was forging an alliance with Prakash Ambedkar’s Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) which didn’t go well with the other two partners in the MVA.
Second, he hosted Delhi CM and Convenor of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Arvind Kejriwal, along with Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann, and other senior AAP functionaries at his house Matoshree. This also, failed to appease the two parties of the alliance.
Why Congress and the NCP are opposed to VBA, is no secret. To explain briefly, VBA, Congress and NCP in many seats cater to the same vote bank, though NCP is seen as a party of Marathas. However, in many seats it has a considerable pull of other votes too.
The VBA and Congress are in direct conflict in many seats, as both eye the same voter base, the Congress has been a party that holds a strong base amongst the Dalits.
So when VBA comes in picture, the Congress and NCP are bound to be unhappy. And Sharad Pawar, the President of NCP in many ways expressed his displeasure too.
One was asking Uddhav Thackeray to accept the Election Commission of India’s order where the party name Shiv Sena and the symbol bow and arrow was snatched from him and given to Eknath Shinde.
Now coming to the second act which can damage the MVA alliance. Congress is in direct conflict with the AAP in many states, it was AAP which ousted Congress in Punjab and also took away majority of its voters in Delhi.
Any alliance with AAP shall not be acceptable to the Congress. The NCP has very limited role to play here but it will always side with the Congress than choose Uddhav in the long run, given the recent setbacks that Uddhav faced.
Why is Uddhav Thackeray making moves that shall impact his alliance with the MVA?
Uddhav after the recent ECI verdict has realised that he has become the smallest partner from the biggest in the MVA. Uddhav only has a handful MLAs and MPs to side with him, who are also under the radar of Eknath Shinde if they go against the party whip in the future Assembly and Parliamentary sessions.
Uddhav knows that whenever the topic of seat sharing will crop up, he will get a raw deal, as he has lost his bargaining power.
He also realises that going ahead with NCP and Congress in BMC polls will not yield him a good result, the reason being several Congress leaders have already stated their displeasure over BMC alliance and NCP doesn’t have a substantial base in Mumbai, and hence, not much of help in BMC polls.
The votes that Congress would have got for Shiv Sena, if it would fight in alliance, the chances of getting those via Ambedkar’s party are better.
Moreover, between VBA and Uddhav, Uddhav is dominant and hence he can dictate the terms and VBA will oblige as it has no presence in Mumbai.
Now coming to AAP and Uddhav's friendly meet, there’s more to the courtesy visits than what meets the eye. It was during the first tenure of Devendra Fadnavis as CM, when AAP and Aaditya Thackeray; son of Uddhav, and a former MVA term minister came closer.
What united Thackeray and the AAP cadre in Mumbai was the 'Save Aarey Protest', a protest led by those opposing the construction of Metro Carshed at Aarey. And this bonhomie continues till date, when the members from both the sides would visit Aarey on Sundays and protest.
However, here, more than Uddhav Thackeray it will be a difficult situation for the AAP cadre to explain why are they aligning with a person whom they blamed for the BMC mismanagement.
Uddhav is set to gain, if he allies with AAP, as AAP is a new party in the state and has tasted success though in smaller elections, that too in rural Maharashtra, but has grown a good cadre base in Mumbai. It will be easy for Uddhav to bargain on seats
Uddhav still has some loyal Shiv Sainiks, his Sakha Pramukhs who are siding with him in Mumbai. He knows his vote count and wants to add the Dalit votes via VBA, the young voters who support AAP. And this can keep him relevant in Mumbai till he finds a better way to tackle the situation at hand.
Varun Singh, is a Mumbai-based journalist and tracks politics and other important news from the western region of the country. Varun has spent close to 18 years in journalism.
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