Crisis in Shiv Sena
Thackeray in command
From Anil Nair in Mumbai
Rebel leader Narayan Rane has all the makings of a Shiv Sena leader ? he believes in taking the fight to the opponent'sterritory. But it is too premature to suggest that he could actually dent the Sena with his claim that he has about 10 Sena MLAs on his side. Though the latest crisis to hit the Shiv Sena after its top leader Rane was shown the door might have unnerved the Sena leadership, it is quite unlikely that a large chunk of Sena MLAs have decided to quit the party. In a show of strength, Uddhav Thackeray, son of the Sena supremo Balasaheb Thackeray, managed to parade 52 MLAs before the Speaker of the Assembly.
This was actually one more than the earlier tally which supported Balasaheb. Now the local folklore is that some of these MLAs might also be part of the Rane'sshow of strength on July 8. Many of Rane'ssupporters have even advised him to call off the meeting which was to prove his numbers.
The ball is now in the court of the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, Babasaheb Kupekar. Uddhav Thackeray had herded all his MLAs to Le Meridian hotel in the suburbs and then taken them to the Assembly to prove his majority status, even while supporting the newly elected leader Ramdas Kadam in place of Narayan Rane as the leader of Opposition. To drive it home, Uddhav also managed to get his MLAs to sign an affidavit in the presence of the Speaker, supporting Sena'sdecision to dismiss Rane.
What is of interest is the Speaker'srole in the crisis. Kupekar is from NCP and the Sharad Pawar'sparty has been all along saying that it was eager to accept Rane into its fold. Even the Congress is not far behind in this game of one-upmanship. Rane'sauthority and popularity in Konkan have made most political parties vie with each other to enlist him as their member.
Rane has in the meanwhile met the Speaker of the Assembly to tell him that his removal as the leader of Opposition is illegal. It is also understood that when he met up with Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh on July 7, he had a telephonic conversation with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi. By all measures he is still weighing his options, probably bargaining to get the best deal from the party he joins.
But the Speaker of the House will also be closely watched by the media and political observers only because he will have to straddle between his party'sinterest and the Speaker'sindependent decision-making. In the event of a Goa-like situation where the Speaker brazenly takes a decision in the interest of his own party, the Sena might rake it up as a major issue in the next elections, as the wronged party. But as some observers here suggest, the Speaker may not take a decision at all for a long time to come, in which case the Speaker'sescapism can actually help his party tide over a crisis in its own camp.