The Supreme Court has rightly chosen not to play ball with the Uddhav Thackeray faction of the Shiv Sena, which is trying to use means other than democratic ones to retain power in Maharashtra. There are many precedents that provide direction in what is the right approach to the kind of crisis that has occurred in that state, not least the one faced by former CM Harish Rawat in Uttarakhand when a load of MLAs defected to the BJP.
Even before the revolt broke out in the Shiv Sena, there were irregularities that did not augur well for legislative functioning, not least the absence of a full-fledged Speaker since February 2021. Since the various posts have been parceled out among the ruling coalition’s members, the Speaker’s election after the earlier one resigned was first delayed due to differences among the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress and, then, between the government and the Governor. This was among the many aggravations that created doubts among the members of the Shiv Sena dissident faction about the viability of the government’s politics.
There may be many in the Shiv Sena that believe in the inviolable right of the Thackeray family to rule over the party, but this cannot be imposed on those who desire democratic functioning. If there are challenges to the traditional leadership, it needs deft handling. Letting conditions deteriorate to the point they have at present means the issue goes into the hands of the constitutional authorities. The Supreme Court has, effectively, maintained the status quo till 12 July, and it is the opinion of most experts that Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari will now have a major role to play. It may be recalled that the bone of contention between him and the government had been the manner of electing the Speaker – through secret ballot or voice vote.
The SC order has created a stalemate between the Deputy Speaker and the rebels. While the government has asked him to disqualify the rebels, they in turn have demanded a ‘no-confidence’ motion against him. The Governor may ask for the Speaker’s election, or allow a vote of no-confidence against the government (which technically would require the presence of the Speaker).
In the meanwhile, governance will suffer in the state. There is also the threat of street violence as that is Shiv Sena’s usual recourse to enforce its writ. If matters get worse, it could also lead to Governor’s rule for a while.