India: Maharashtra chief minister resigns amid party mutiny

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The chief minister of India’s richest state, Maharashtra, resigned late Wednesday after days of attempting to quell a rebellion within his Hindu nationalist political party.

The resignation came after the country’s apex court ruled that he must prove a majority in the state legislature.

“I have no regrets about leaving the CM’s (chief minister) chair. Whatever I did, I did for the Marathi people and Hindutva (Hindu nationalist). Today, in front of everyone, I am announcing my resignation as CM of the state,” Uddhav Thackeray said in an online address. 

“We respect the Supreme Court judgment. Democracy must be followed,” he said.

The regional Shiv Sena party leader was attempting to delay a floor test after 39 of his party’s Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) turned against him under the leadership of another Sena leader, Eknath Shinde.

His resignation has paved the way for the party rebels to join a coalition with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to form a government in India’s second most populous state.

What happened to Sena’s coalition?

Thackeray’s Shiv Sena came to power in a post-poll alliance with the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party in 2019, when the former chose to break away from its traditional ally, the BJP. 

However, earlier this month, 39 of Shiv Sena’s 55 MLAs formed a separate camp under Shinde’s leadership, relocating first to Surat – in the BJP-ruled state of Gujarat – and then to a hotel in India’s eastern state of Assam, another BJP-ruled state, as they waited for Thackeray’s government to fall. 

Amid the political crisis in Maharashtra, former chief minister and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis met the state’s governor on Tuesday, requesting a floor test. This test is a legislative procedure that makes an incumbent government – suspected to have lost the majority – prove it still retains the confidence of the legislature.

Why does it matter?

By choosing to end Sena’s alliance with BJP in 2019, Thackeray had excluded the federal ruling party from the government in one of the largest states in the country. 

However, nearly three years after forming the government, the rebel side alleged that the party’s alliance with non-BJP parties was not in line with its right-wing, Hindu nationalist ideology. 

Proclaiming BJP as the natural fit for Sena, the rebel camp under Shinde is expected to bolster the Fadnavis’ numbers to form the next government in Maharashtra. The BJP needs to cross the halfway mark of 144 lawmakers in the 288-member assembly.

But to avoid disqualification under India’s anti-defection law, Shinde needs to prove the support of at least 37 legislators in the state.

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