What Eknath Shinde is doing in 2022, Sharad Pawar did in 1978

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Senior Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde has rebelled against the party bringing a crisis to the coalition government in Maharashtra. He has claimed the support of 40 Sena MLAs plus 12 independents and others. However, whether this Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government survives this rebellion or not cannot yet be predicted.

Meanwhile, let us look at a similar (and successful) revolt in Maharashtra in 1978 that was led by none other than Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar.

After the Emergency was lifted in 1977, the Congress party split into two factions – the Congress (I), headed by former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Congress (Urs), headed by then Karnataka Chief Minister D. Devraj Urs.

However, after the Maharashtra Assembly election in 1978, both the factions joined hands to keep the Janata Party (which emerged as the single-largest party) out of power, by forming a government under Vasantdada Patil.

The Vasantdada Patil government was unsteady as it enjoyed a wafer-thin majority of just four seats. A no-confidence motion was brought in by the Opposition. Sharad Pawar, who was the industries minister, initially backed the government to help it survive the motion. However, he later drove to the Raj Bhavan and staked claim to form the new government.

Pawar took the help of the Janata Party to become the state’s youngest Chief Minister at the age of 38.

Remebering this revolt, the then Maval MLA Krishnarao Bhegde who was part of it told the Indian Express that the principal reason why the rebels decided to part ways with the government was the “humiliating” treatment meted out to them. He said the Deputy chief minister, who belonged to Congress (I), openly criticised chief minister Patil, Sharad Pawar and his mentor Yashwantrao Chavan, all of whom belonged to Congress (Urs).

The discontent against the government was brewing for three-four months, said Bhegde, adding that the discussion regarding forming another group and joining hands with Opposition parties was going on.

“Then suddenly, when the monsoon session of the assembly was underway, Pawar on July 18, 1978, went to the Governor and submitted a letter regarding his 38 MLAs forming a new group. He also submitted a letter regarding support of other parties and another letter regarding his election as the legislature party leader,” said Bhegde. “The Governor then invited Pawar to take over as the chief minister. Pawar took the oath of office even as the assembly session was underway,” he added.

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