As the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in Maharashtra continues to battle a survival crisis, rebel Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde met BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis last night in Gujarat’s Vadodara city, according to sources. After the meeting, Shinde took a flight back to Assam’s capital city Guwahati where a majority of his loyalists are camping.
Shinde, a minister in the Thackeray cabinet and a heavyweight from the Thane district, has rebelled against the Shiv Sena, pushing the MVA coalition government, in which NCP and Congress also share power, to the brink of collapse. The dissident leader has claimed the support of 37 MLAs and 10 independents, and all of them are currently in Guwahati. Shinde has also claimed that the faction led by him is the “real Shiv Sena”. However, party leader Sanjay Raut has made it clear that the fate of the MVA government will be decided on the floor of the House.
Here are the top developments of the day in the ongoing political turmoil in Maharashtra:
A Battle Between Truth & Lie’
Maharashtra minister Aaditya Thackeray has said the present turmoil in the party, triggered by Shinde’s rebellion, is the battle between “truth and lie”. Speaking to reporters after attending the Shiv Sena national executive,” he said, “We will win and the truth will prevail. This is a battle between truth and lies.”
Aaditya, who is the son of Shiv Sena president and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, held a meeting with Sena workers from south Mumbai to rally the party cadre. Elections to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), controlled by Shiv Sena, are expected to be held later this year.
The Mumbai civic polls are crucial for the Sena which considers Mumbai as its citadel.
‘No Other Outfit Can Use Bal Thackeray’s Name’
The Shiv Sena national executive today authorised Uddhav Thackeray to take action against the rebel MLAs of the state. The party passed six resolutions, including one in which it barred any other political outfit or faction from using the name Shiv Sena and the name of its founder, late Bal Thackeray. The announcement was in response to the Shinde faction, which had earlier in the day claimed that it has named itself as ‘Shiv Sena (Balasaheb)’.
“Balasaheb (Thackeray) and Shiv Sena are two sides of the same coin and except Shiv Sena, no one can use his name,” one of the resolutions read.
Speaking to reporters, Raut said, “The executive decided that Shiv Sena belongs to Bal Thackeray and is committed to taking forward his fierce ideology of Hindutva and Marathi pride. Shiv Sena will never deviate from this path. It passed a resolution, giving all powers to take action against those who have betrayed the party to Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray.”
The other resolutions included one congratulating Uddhav Thackeray for leading Maharashtra efficiently during the Covid-19 pandemic and for the development works carried out in the last two and a half years, Raut said.
The national executive condemned the rebel MLAs and said the Shiv Sena was firmly behind Uddhav Thackeray. The executive also resolved that the party will contest all coming local body elections and win.
Notably, Sena veterans Anant Gite and Ramdas Kadam, who are members of the national executive, were absent from the meeting.
‘Haven’t Quit Party’
Meanwhile, the Shinde-led faction said they have not left the party but indicated that they will act as a separate group in the Maharashtra assembly under the name ‘Shiv Sena (Balasaheb). Rebel MLA Deepak Kesarkar said since they have two-thirds majority, Shinde remains the leader of the Sena legislature group.
He further said, the reason of rift with party chief Uddhav Thackeray was his decision to end the alliance with the BJP and join hands with the NCP and Congress in 2019. “Just 16 or 17 people can not replace the group leader of 55 MLAs and the rebel Sena faction will challenge in the court the order of Maharashtra assembly’s Deputy Speaker Narhari Zirwal replacing Shinde as Shiv Sena group leader,” he said.
“Recognition should be given to our faction, if it isn’t given, we will go to court and prove our existence and numbers. We have the numbers, but we respect CM Uddhav Thackeray, we won’t speak against him. We must follow the path on which we fought Assembly elections,” he was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
Recognition should be given to our faction, if it isn't given, we'll go to court & prove our existence & numbers. We've numbers, but we respect CM Uddhav Thackeray, we won't speak against him. We must follow the path on which we fought Assembly elections:Rebel MLA Deepak Kesarkar pic.twitter.com/QVgkLs5Wss
— ANI (@ANI) June 25, 2022
Denying accusations of “hijacking” the party and answering queries on whether the rebel group will withdraw the support to the Thackeray-led government, Kesarkar said, “Why should we withdraw the support? We are the Shiv Sena. We have not hijacked the party, the NCP and Congress have hijacked it.”
Rebel Ministers to Lose Their Posts?
Raut said the rebel ministers in the Shinde camp will lose their posts “in 24 hours.” Talking to a Marathi news channel, he said “the process of their removal is on.” “Ministers like Gulabrao Patil, Dada Bhuse, Sandipan Bhumre were considered to be loyal Shiv Sena workers who were made cabinet ministers by Uddhav Thackeray…the party has given them enough. They have taken the wrong path and will lose their posts in 24 hours,” he said.
Other ministers in the rebel camp are Shambhuraj Desai, Abdul Sattar and Bachchu Kadu. Kadu heads the Prahar Janshakti Party which is part of the Sena-led ruling alliance.
Meanwhile, Raut also said that half of the rebel legislators have nothing to do with Hindutva ideology as they claim, but they are facing Enforcement Directorate (ED)’s probe.
16 Rebels Sent Disqualification Notice
The Maharashtra assembly deputy speaker has served a disqualification notice to 16 rebel Shiv Sena MLAs belonging to Shinde’s camp. The Sena submitted two letters to the legislature secretariat, seeking disqualification of 16 MLAs including Shinde named by the Shiv Sena’s chief whip, Sunil Prabhu. The summons issued by Rajendra Bhagwat, principal secretary of the Maharashtra Vidhan Bhavan said that Prabhu had submitted a letter to deputy speaker of the assembly Narhari Zirwal seeking their disqualification under The Members of Maharashtra Legislative Assembly (Disqualification on ground of Defection) Rules, 1986.
The Maharashtra legislature secretariat has issued summons to the 16 rebel Shiv Sena MLAs and has sought written replies by the evening of June 27 to the complaints seeking their disqualification.
“In your defence of the summons, you need to submit your written response before 5.30 pm on June 27 (Monday) supported by all the necessary documents. If the written response to the summons is not submitted in given period, it would be considered as you have no say over it. The office will initiate necessary action based on the complaint filed by Prabhu against you,” the letter said.
The Shinde-led group has reiterated that Prabhu has been replaced as party whip by Bharat Gogawale due to the support of more than two-thirds of Sena MLAs.
(with inputs from PTI)