Mumbai: Just a day after Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray vowed to fight the rebellion in his party, senior leader Sanjay Raut on Thursday caused a sensation by saying that the party was ready to walk out of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) alliance in the state. He has also appealed to the rebels to come back and hold talks with the CM. However, the NCP and the Congress played down his comment, terming it as an attempt to bring the rebel MLAs back and said the MVA government will complete its full term.
“If the dissenting MLAs want the party to pull out of the MVA, they need to come back to Mumbai in 24 hours and discuss the issue with CM Uddhav Thackeray. We are ready to consider your demand, but show the courage to come back. Don’t write letters on Twitter and WhatsApp,” Raut said. He later tweeted that the doors were still open for the rebel MLAs.
Rebel leader Eknath Shinde is now camping with 37 rebel MLAs and nine Independents in Guwahati, which has put the MVA government into a crisis. Raut’s appeal to his disgruntled partymen has come after new visuals and a video from Radisson Blu Hotel in Guwahati which shows that a total of 42 rebel MLAs are present with Shinde. These include 34 MLAs from the Shiv Sena and seven Independents.
Thackeray’s emotional appeal did not have much impact on his legislators and six more Shiv Sena legislators switched sides on Thursday to the Shinde-led camp. Sada Sarvankar, Mangesh Kudalkar, Sanjay Rathod and Deepak Kesarkar were among those who joined the rebel camp on Thursday, taking their total number to 42. MLC Ravindra Phatak, who was sent by Thackeray to hold talks with Mr Shinde in Surat, has also reached Guwahati.
One of the rebel MLA, Sanjay Shirsat, has written a letter to Mr Uddhav Thackeray claiming that they had faced “humiliation” for the past two and a half years as they felt ignored by the CM.
“Despite the Shiv Sena being in power and having its own chief minister, the coterie around Thackeray never allowed us access to ‘Varsha’, the CM’s official residence. Instead, Shinde helped resolve all the problems. Hence, the party MLAs persuaded Shinde to take this step for the rights of all the legislators,” Mr Shirsat said in the letter.
A video has, meanwhile, surfaced showing Mr Shinde telling his loyalists that a national party has said it will provide whatever help they require.
Commenting on this, NCP supremo Sharad Pawar alleged the hand of the BJP behind the ongoing crisis in Maharashtra. “Everyone knows how the rebel Shiv Sena MLAs were taken to Gujarat and then Assam. There are six registered national parties in the country. The Congress, NCP, CPI, CPM and Trinamool Congress are not behind them. This leaves only the BJP,” he said.
Pawar also extended support to Mr Thackeray, saying the majority will be decided only on the floor of the state Assembly. “I believe once the (Shiv Sena) MLAs return to Mumbai, the situation will change,” he added.
Shinde requires the support of 37 of the Shiv Sena’s 55 legislators to split the party and keep action under an anti-defection law at bay. According to reports, Mr Shinde and his supporters will send a letter to deputy speaker Narhari Jhirwal on Friday claiming the status of a separate group in the Assembly.
The BJP has, meanwhile, also started making its moves. Former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis flew to New Delhi, where he is likely to discuss the Maharashtra developments and government formation in the state with the party’s national leadership.