WITH THE Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in Maharashtra facing a political crisis following a rebellion in the Shiv Sena ranks, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president Sharad Pawar on Sunday convened a meeting of all three coalition partners at his Silver Oak residence in Mumbai and reassured senior leaders that they could collectively weather the storm.
“Pawar stressed on collective efforts to fight the political battle against the rebel Eknath Shinde group,” a Congress minister, requesting anonymity, said. With the Shiv Sena likely to get embroiled in legal and legislative challenges as the Shinde-led rebel faction digs its heels in, Pawar reportedly also assured his allies that whatever was required to legally contest (the rebel camp’s claims), would be done.
Senior Congress ministers Balasaheb Thorat and Ashok Chavan, Shiv Sena minister Anil Parab and senior Sena leader Anil Desai were present at the meeting. Later, deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar and home minister Dilip Walse Patil also met Pawar.
Pawar reportedly also told the ministers to return to work at Mantralaya. With political uncertainty, ministers have stayed away from their offices, adopting a wait-and-watch attitude. Sensing that the administration has come to a halt, Pawar reportedly “urged all ministers across Congress, NCP and Shiv Sena to get back to work”.
Congress ministers at the meeting brought up the issue of farmers in the state. With the onset of the monsoon, farmers are preparing to start sowing seeds. An effective administration at this crucial time is a must, they pointed out. Another concern was farmers’ unrest following a price rise in fertilizers and quality seeds. Congress ministers also raised the issue of farmers failing to access fresh crop loans from various financial institutions. Though Kharif sowing should end by July 15, to date, less than 20 per cent of sowing has been completed, they pointed out. Moreover, agriculture minister Dadaji Bhuse, who is part of the Shinde-led rebel camp, is himself in Guwahati.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, Shinde was appointed as a leader by his faction and given the right to take any decision on behalf of the rebels, who are currently staying at a Guwahati hotel. Apart from Shinde and Bhuse, other rebel ministers at Guwahati include Gulabrao Patil, Shambhu Desai, Sandipan Bhumre and Abdul Sattar. The Shinde faction, which has claimed support from 38 Sena MLAs out of 55 MLAs in total, is all set to take its battle to the Supreme Court. The rebel MLAs are planning to challenge the disqualification notices served on 16 MLAs by Deputy Speaker Narhari Zirwal. “The disqualification is applicable had they violated the whip on the floor of the House. Not attending a meeting convened by Uddhav Thackeray outside Vidhan Bhawan cannot justify disqualification,” the camp has argued, pointing out that though it is mandatory to give members seven days’ notice to explain their side, they have been given just two days to do so.
The rebels have also questioned the rights of the deputy speaker to initiate action against them when a no-confidence resolution seeking Zirwal’s removal is pending before the House.