THE GROUP of rebel Shiv Sena MLAs, headed by Eknath Shinde, arrived in Goa amid heavy security cover, minutes after Uddhav Thackeray announced his resignation as Chief Minister of Maharashtra Wednesday evening.
After camping in Guwahati for days, the Shinde faction, which brought down the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra, arrived on a special Spice Jet flight at Dabolim airport in South Goa.
After hopping from one BJP-ruled state to another over the past nine days, the rebel MLAs flew in closer to Mumbai ahead of a floor test that was scheduled on Thursday. However, Thackeray’s resignation meant there would be no floor test.
The MLAs were expected to leave for Mumbai on Thursday morning by a chartered flight but sources said the plan may change now since there will be no floor test. The sources said Shinde will hold a meeting with the MLAs and strategise the next move.
Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant met the breakaway legislators at the hotel late Wednesday night, the sources said. The Shinde faction is expected to align with the BJP in the next government formation in Maharashtra.
Shinde and the other rebel MLAs reached the Taj Resort and Convention Centre in Dona Paula, where they were scheduled to spend the night, around 11.15 pm amid heavy security cover. Sources said at least 80 rooms were booked for the Shinde camp.
Ahead of their arrival, security measures were tightened outside the five-star hotel. Goa Director General of Police Jaspal Singh and other senior police officers reviewed the security arrangements Wednesday evening.
As tourist families milled around the hotel lobby, sources said armed police officers kept vigil. Outside, there was heavy barricading.
The Goa Police had also strengthened its checks at its northern state border at Patradevi. Goa shares a border with Sindhudurg district of Maharashtra. Shiv Sena MLA from Sidhudurg Vaibhav Naik has stayed on with Thackeray while senior Shiv Sena leader and MLA from Sawantwadi Deepak Kesarkar is among the rebels.
Hours before the rebel group arrived, Shailendra Velingkar, Goa Shiv Sena leader and chief of Parshuram Gomantak Sena, reached the hotel. He was, however, asked to leave the hotel premises by the police and hotel security.
Goa Shiv Sena leader Jitesh Kamat earlier targeted the BJP government in Goa for deploying the state’s security apparatus to provide protection to the Shinde-led rebel faction. He said the BJP in Goa had protected “traitors” from Maharashtra at the cost of the taxpayer.