Mumbai: After showing a video with 31 party and four independent MLAs, Shiv Sena's rebel leader Eknath Shinde (he told reporters later that he has 40 MLAS with him in Assam, as per PTI) seems determined to pull the three-party Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government down.
Shinde, who shifted his supporter MLAs to Guwahati, Assam, which has a BJP government and is 2,800 km from Mumbai. It is clear that Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is helping Shinde in his ‘coup’ against Sena chief and Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. Looking at the situation, both Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leaders are on high alert to keep their flock together.
According to PTI, Shinde, along with a group of Shiv Sena and independent legislators, arrived in Guwahati early on Wednesday morning and initially refused to speak to the media persons waiting outside the airport.
He later said 40 MLAs accompanied him but didn't want to make any comment on anybody, but later said: "We are committed to Balasaheb Thackeray's ideology of 'Hindutva' and we want to take it forward.”
Asked by reporters why they had come to Guwahati, he said, "It is a nice place".
Assam is currently ruled by a Bharatiya Janata Party -led government.
Incidentally, the rebel MLAs from Maharashtra were received at Guwahati's Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi international airport by BJP MP from Assam Pallab Lochan Das and legislator Sushanta Borgohain. They were taken to a luxury hotel on the outskirts of the city in three buses of the Assam State Transport Corporation with police protection.
Asked about the developments, Borgohain said: "People known to us have come here and so we have come to receive them."
Speculations are rife that Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma is likely to meet the Maharashtra MLAs during the day though the BJP or any official source of the party is yet to confirm it, said the PTI report.
It is a surprise for even Sena workers that such a large number of MLAs are ditching their leadership. Only 22 MLAs are left with Thackeray. Yet, Sena MP Sanjay Raut claimed that everything would be sorted out soon.
"We (Shinde and other MLAs plus Uddhav Thackeray) have worked together for decades. It is not easy for them to leave the party and for us also to think without them. I talked with Shinde for one hour today morning. I am sure that all the MLAs will come back," said Raut on Wednesday morning.
But, everyone now knows that the situation is much worse for Sena than Raut is trying to project. Like Rajendra Yadravkar Patil, an independent MLA and minister of state from Sena quota was present in CM Thackeray's meeting on Tuesday afternoon. But, in the evening he reached Surat and went to Guwahati with other MLAs. The same is with another minister of state Bachchu Kadu. He too went to Surat after meeting with Thackeray.
After announcing candidature of Yashwant Sinha for president post of Opposition parties, NCP chief Sharad Pawar returned to Mumbai on Tuesday night. He met his party's senior leaders to discuss the situation. Sources from NCP said Pawar told leaders that he would stand with Thackeray.
"Let Thackeray take a decision about their party. NCP will stand with them. If Uddhav asks to intervene in the current situation, the NCP supremo is ready to do that," said a senior leader present in the meeting.
Meanwhile, Thackeray while informally meeting with Congress leaders, claimed on Tuesday that 12 MLAs wanted to return to the party. "We have been contacted by them or their relatives that they want to return," he told Congress leaders.
Looking at numbers shown by Shinde (in the video), it is being said that the governor could call Thackeray to prove his majority. Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari is COVID-19 positive and admitted in a hospital in Mumbai. So there is buzz that his charge could be given to the Goa governor.
Challenge to Thackeray's authority from his partymen is not new to Shiv Sena. It has been happening time and again. Thirty years ago, Chhagan Bhujbal left Sena with 12 MLAs to join Congress. Rane left Sena with 14 MLAs in 2005 to join Congress. Raj Thackeray, Udhhav’s estranged cousin, left Sena in 2006, over the battle of supremacy over the party. All this time, Sena founder Bal Thackeray was alive. But, Shinde's rebellion seems different.
This time, out of 56 MLAs, Shinde is claiming to have 35 MLAs with him, plus six independents. This is big in size. Also, this could lead to the diminishing of the authority of Thackeray on Shiv Sena. This is a big political development in Maharashtra in recent times. Whether Thackeray succeeds in retaining his authority on the party, whether he succeeds in saving the government or ends up losing both remains to be seen.
Cong MLAs Not for Sale: Kamal Nath
Mumbai: Amid the Shiv Sena-led Maharashtra government facing a crisis following the revolt by a section of its MLAs, senior Congress leader Kamal Nath on Wednesday said his party is united and its MLAs are "not for sale".
Nath, who was on Tuesday appointed as the AICC observer in Maharashtra in the wake of the political turmoil in the state, and NCP chief Sharad Pawar are expected to meet Chief Minister and Sena president Uddhav Thackeray around noon.
The Maharashtra cabinet meeting is also scheduled later in the day.
The Congress shares power in Maharashtra with the Shiv Sena and NCP.
Talking to reporters on his arrival at the Mumbai-based official residence of Maharashtra Revenue Minister and Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Balasaheb Thorat, Nath said, "It is for the Shiv Sena to take care of its team and see how it wants to handle its MLAs."
He asserted that the Congress leaders were united.
"I am sure we will stay intact. It is for the Congress party to demonstrate unity. The Congress MLAs are not for sale," the former Madhya Pradesh chief minister said.
The CLP holding a meeting at Thorat's residence on Wednesday.
On Tuesday evening, 42 out of the Congress's 44 MLAs in the state were present at the meeting called by AICC secretary H K Patil.
According to the Congress, its senior leader and Maharashtra Relief and Rehabilitation Minister Vijay Wadettiwar was abroad on an official trip and is scheduled to reach Mumbai on Wednesday, while MLA Subhash Dhote was also on way to the state capital from Chandrapur.
(with inputs from PTI)