Why Do Rebel Factions Exist in a Political Party?

Recent rebel Shiv Sena leaders camping in Guwahati, far away from their centre at Mumbai, has become a hot topic of debate. The MVA Government in Maharashtra is on the verge of collapse, or at least that’s what is the topic of discussion now, due to a large number of Shiv Sena leaders rebelling against their own Chief Minister. However, this rebel faction concept is not entirely new and we have a number of examples coming off late in other states as well.

In the past, many states have fallen out as a result of no-confidence motion. This may occur due to withdrawal of support from a major political party towards the ruling party, which is usually the case. However, there are also other situations, where a number of leaders in the ruling party rebel against the head of the party and subsequently lead to the fall-out of the party. This case is not so frequent, and usually the rebels could not gather much stem after some initial onslaught.

Karnataka is a major example where the Government resigned after a no-confidence vote went against its favour. The BJP despite forming the single-largest party in the assembly failed to make up the majority. The Congress-Janata Dal alliance formed the Government, with a combined majority, as H.D. Kumaraswamy took oath as Karnataka’s Chief Minister in 2018. However, in 2019, a sudden resignation of 16 MLAs and 2 independents switching sides to BJP resulted in a floor test at the Karnataka Assembly. It ultimately resulted in a no-confidence towards the current Kumaraswamy-led Government albeit by a very slim margin. BJP formed the Government with the rebels and B.S. Yedurappa took oath as the Chief Minister after Kumaraswamy’s resignation.

Similar thing happened at Madhya Pradesh where Congress formed the Government after having backing of some independent and BSP MLAs. BJP lost by a slender margin and hence a few MLAs changing ships means BJP will get back in power. This is what exactly happened in 2020. 22 of the sitting MLAs rebelled and resigned, while 3 more joined the rebels soon after. The rebels changed ship to the BJP and won back 17 of the 25 vacant seats. This led to BJP being the majority and Congress with independents and others the minority, and hence led to a change in the Government. The Kamal Nath Government fell and Shivraj Singh Chouhan formed the BJP Government in Madhya Pradesh as the outcome.

A different example can be the Jammu and Kashmir one. The PDP-BJP Government led by Mehbooba Mufti was toppled when BJP withdrew its support to the coalition. The PDP then tried to side with the National Conference led by Farooq Abdullah but a few of PDP MLAs rebelled. The Governor then dissolved the whole assembly and till now the Jammu and Kashmir legislative assembly lies vacant.

The current situation in Maharashtra may fall under any of the categories, or it can be a completely new entity. The Uddhav Thackeray led MVA Government disqualified 16 Shiv Sena MLAs from the Assembly. Eknath Shinde, one of the disqualified MLA formed the leader of the rebels and gathered huge support from others. Eknath Shinde got a whole rebel camp going of more than 48 sitting MLAs, which include 39 from Shiv Sena and 9 independents. The rebels have camped outside the state, first in Surat and then in Guwahati, where more and more MLAs are joining day by day. The rebels have claimed two-third majority(37 needed for majority out of 55), for which they can not be disqualified now. However, the law states that this two-thirds majority is still not enough as the rebels need to merge to another party to nullify the disqualification. The rebels are currently not looking at the opposition of BJP, lurking in the background. However, it is very difficult to pass the floor test in the Legislative Assembly as of now as the Shiv Sena camp hardly has 13 MLAs left in its support and even with Congress and NCP support, they can not form the majority.

As of now, Uddav Thackeray is looking forward to sit and talk with the rebel leaders. For most other political parties outside Maharashtra dialogue is the best option to go at this hour. We have to wait and see if the rebels return to the Government or they side with the opposition, or they form an independent party on their own. The BJP, which is the single-largest party in the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly, is also looking for an opportunity to form the Government which they missed due to the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress coalition. It is up to the rebels now, whether they side with BJP and form the Government or return back to Shiv Sena to stop BJPs growth in the state.

Written by – Himadri Paul

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