The Shiv Sena is open to considering quitting Maharashtra’s ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) alliance if the rebel MLAs camping in Assam return to Mumbai within 24 hours and discuss their grievances with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, party MP Sanjay Raut said on Thursday, indicating a big shift in stand that surprised ally Congress, while the NCP said it wanted the coalition government to complete its term.
As political crisis in the MVA government, triggered by Shiv Sena cabinet minister Eknath Shinde’s revolt three days ago, raged three more MLAs of the party left for Guwahati in the BJP-ruled Assam to join the rebel camp. Shinde is currently camping with 37 rebel MLAs of the Sena and nine independents in Guwahati. The NCP and Congress also share power in the Uddhav Thackeray-led dispensation.
Shinde said a “national party” has termed their revolt as “historic” and assured to provide all help to them. A video of Shinde addressing the group of rebel Sena legislators at a Guwahati hotel was released by his office. The video also showed the MLAs unanimously authorising Shinde to take further decision on their behalf as their group leader.
A day after Thackeray made an emotional appeal to rebel MLAs of his party and offered to resign in a bid to placate them, his trusted aide Raut indicated the Shiv Sena is ready to consider leaving the MVA headed by it, a demand put forward by Shinde who has dubbed the three-party bloc as an “unnatural” alliance.
“You say you are real Shiv Sainiks and will not quit the party. We are ready to consider your demand provided you come back to Mumbai within 24 hours and discuss the issue with CM Uddhav Thackeray. Your demand will be considered positively. Don’t write letters on Twitter and WhatsApp,” Raut, who is the party’s chief spokesperson, told reporters here.
NCP president Sharad Pawar, meanwhile, said the fate of the MVA government will be decided on the floor of the Assembly, and the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress coalition will prove its majority in a trust vote. Pawar also asserted that the BJP has played a role in the crisis that has befallen the Uddhav Thackeray-led government.
Praful Patel, another NCP leader, said party chief Sharad Pawar “formed the MVA and he still wishes that it remains intact.” Three more Shiv Sena MLAs – Deepak Kesakar (MLA from Sawantwadi), Mangesh Kudalkar (Chembur) and Sada Sarvankar (Dadar) took a morning flight from Mumbai for Guwahati, a close associate of Shinde said.
On Wednesday evening, four MLAs, including Maharashtra minister Gulabrao Patil, had flown to Guwahati.
After reaching Guwahati, Shinde had claimed the support of 46 legislators, including some Independents. The rebel leader had given a letter to the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly’s deputy speaker, signed by 35 Sena MLAs, replacing Sunil Prabhu with Bharat Gogavale as the chief whip of the Shiv Sena legislature party.
Deputy Speaker Narhari Zirwal said he has approved the appointment of Ajay Choudhary as the Shiv Sena’s group leader in the House, replacing rebel MLA Shinde.
The Shiv Sena on Tuesday removed Shinde as the party’s group leader in the Assembly, hours after he revolted and travelled to Surat in Gujarat with some Shiv Sena MLAs, triggering a crisis in the ruling alliance. Zirwal said, “I have received a letter from the Shiv Sena, informing me that it is appointing Ajay Choudhary as the party’s leader in the Assembly and removing Shinde from the post with immediate effect.”
Shiv Sena MLA Kailas Patil, who had escaped from a car carrying rebel legislators to Surat on Monday night, claimed in Mumbai that some of those siding with Shinde might be wanting to return, but were forced to stay back.
Another Sena MLA Sanjay Shirsat has written a letter to the Chief Minister claiming Shinde took the step of going against the party leadership as party MLAs, who faced “humilitation” for the last two-and-a-half years, persuaded him to do so.
Shirsat, the MLA from Aurangabad (West) Assembly constituency, in the letter claimed despite the Shiv Sena heading the MVA and having its own chief minister, the coterie around Thackeray never allowed them access to ‘Varsha’, the CM’s official residence.