Updated: June 23, 2022 6:56:17 pm
With his party rebel MLAs not backing down and the numbers clearly not on his side, Maharashtra Chief Minister and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, battling to save the Maha Vikas Aghadi coalition government, left the CM residence for his family home Wednesday evening, shortly after an emotional speech in which he said he is willing to resign if the MLAs and Sainiks tell him to his face that they do not want him to continue.
Uddhav was seen leaving Varsha, the official residence of the CM, with wife Rashmi and sons Aaditya and Tejas. He left with personal belongings, and was accompanied by Shiv Sainiks all the way to Matoshree, the Thackeray family home.
Earlier, in an address which was more an appeal to the Sena continued after rebel minister Eknath Shinde moved from Surat to Guwahati with his flock, Uddhav, who tested positive for Covid Wednesday, said, “If my own people are saying they do not want me, then shouldn’t they have come before me to say it instead of going to Surat and speaking there? They should have come here and said ‘Uddhavji, you are useless… forget the praise (for work done) during Covid… We don’t want you’. I would have resigned from the post of CM even if one MLA had said this to me.”
“If you do not believe this, then I will immediately move to Matoshree from Varsha. I have no greed. I am not going to stick to the chair… I am the son of Balasaheb. But come here, say whatever you have to in front of me,” he said.
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This was Uddhav’s first public remarks after the revolt in his party. On Wednesday, Eknath Shinde claimed that he now had support of 34 MLAs, 30 of them from the Shiv Sena which has a strength of 55 in the Maharashtra Assembly.
Late in the evening, Shinde, in a Twitter post, said, “Over the last two years under the MVA government, only the coalition partners benefitted while the Shiv Sainik was left frustrated. While our allies gained strength the Shiv Sena and Sainiks were deliberately weakened. For ensuring the survival of the party and Sainiks, it is necessary to step out of this unnatural alliance. For the greater good of Maharashtra, it is time to take a decision.”
More MLAs are said to be on their way to join the Shinde camp. The revolt, hours after the Legislative Council elections Monday in which the MVA suffered a setback following cross-voting by MLAs, has put a question mark on the future of the coalition.
In the House of 288 which is currently at 287 owing to the death of Sena MLA Ramesh Latke last month, the MVA needs at least 144 MLAs. Before the revolt, its strength in the House was 152 — Sena 55, NCP 53, Congress 44. The BJP strength is 106 while Others account for the remaining 29.
Hoping to return to power and not willing to reveal its cards yet, the BJP, party sources said, is waiting for Shinde to rustle up the numbers that he needs to beat the anti-defection law.
“More Shiv Sena MLAs are expected to join Shinde by Thursday, and it will no longer be a numbers game. Uddhav will be left with only a handful of MLAs. He has lost his pillar of strength… the shock of this development will make it easier for the BJP.”
Once the picture is clear, the BJP hopes to make its move and get Devendra Fadnavis to stake claim with the backing of the Sena rebels, sources said, maintaining that the chain of events so far has been on expected lines.
The rebel MLAs made public a resolution, appointing Shinde as leader of the Shiv Sena legislature party, saying “there is enormous discontent” in the party cadre “for forming the government with NCP and Indian National Congress who are ideologically opposed to our party”.
The rebel list of 34 MLAs has signatures of 30 Sena MLAs – two MLAs are from the Prahar Janshakti Party and two are independents. More smaller parties are rallying behind Shinde who needs to have the support of 37 party legislators to avoid disqualification under the anti-defection law and form a separate group.
The resolution of the rebels stated: “There has been compromise on the principles of our party Shiv Sena, which has been a party with a fierce ideological base, and was formed for fighting for the rights of local Marathi people. For the last two-and-a-half years, our party and its leadership have compromised party principles by aligning with contrasting ideologies for the sake of achieving power in the state of Maharashtra.”
“The ideology of our party’s leader, Late Balasaheb Thackeray, was to give a clean and honest government to the people of Maharashtra… without compromising on the principle of Hindutva which was defeated the first day itself by aligning with opposing ideologies,” it stated.
The resolution said party members were unhappy about “corruption” in the government and administration regarding police postings and referred to former “Home Minister Anil Deshmukh (who is in jail), and sitting Minority Minister Nawab Malik (also in jail).”
“Our party cadre faced tremendous harassment and distress on political as well as personal grounds from the opposition ideological parties, who are now a part of the government, and were using their office and power to undermine the base and foundation of our Shiv Sena cadre,” the resolution stated.
It said the Sena decision to sever ties with the BJP in spite of having a pre-poll alliance had a negative impact on the cadre of the party.
“There was continuous hue and cry towards the party leadership for the act of aligning with the opposing parties. Ignoring this, the party leadership went ahead and formed a Maha Vikas Aghadi government. For the last two-and-a-half years, we, the Shiv Sena Legislative Party members, were facing tremendous pressure from their electorates/voters,” it stated.
The resolution also stated that Bharat Gogavale had been elected and appointed Chief Whip of the Shiv Sena legislature party, and that the appointment of Sunil Prabhu had been cancelled with immediate effect.
Earlier in the day, Sunil Prabhu had issued a letter asking all Sena MLAs to be present for a meeting in Mumbai. The letter warned that if anyone remained absent, it would be considered that the MLA had decided to quit the party voluntarily. The meeting did not, however, take place.
In Guwahati, Shinde and the rebel MLAs were received at the airport by BJP MP Pallab Lochan Das and MLA Sushanta Borgohain.
Speaking to reporters, Shinde said he and those with him were “committed” to Balasaheb Thackeray’s ideology of Hindutva. “We want to take it forward,” he said, “I have 40 Shiv Sena MLAs with me. I cannot comment on anybody.”
Borgohain told reporters that he was at the airport to “receive friends”.
“Two-three friends called me, so I came to receive them…They have not disclosed what programme they have,” he said.
Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma told reporters that he was not privy to much information on the developments. “I am busy with flood relief work. Right now I am heading to Kampur (Nagaon)… tomorrow I will head to Silchar,” he said, adding that there were some “legislator friends” and he may meet them for “five to ten minutes”.
Sarma said it was “positive” that people were visiting the state despite the floods. “Since we are inundated, all hotel rooms are empty and the state is facing financial difficulties. Now if tourists from across the country come and stay in a hotel, it will only benefit us,” he said.
BJP Rajya Sabha MP Pabitra Margherita said “all people” were “welcome” in Assam.
The rebel MLAs were taken to a luxury hotel in Guwahati in three buses amid heavy police protection.
Sushmita Dev, TMC MP from Silchar which has been submerged in water for the last 72 hours, said the BJP government had its priorities wrong.
“There is a crisis in Silchar — there is no drinking water, no electricity, no boats for rescue … people are living on roofs… in the middle of all this, the Chief Minister of Assam is busy poaching MLAs, and putting them up in five-star hotels. This is really bad,” she said.
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