Eknath Shinde claims support of 50 MLAs, asks Uddhav to accept defeat
Shiv Sena rebel Eknath Shinde on Friday flaunted more than 50 MLAs and asked Uddhav Thackeray to quietly accept defeat and resign as chief minister, but the ruling coalition members insisted that the game wasn’t over yet.
The Shiv Sena-Congress-NCP strategists still believe the situation may change after the rebel group returns to Mumbai, with their ranks getting whittled down to 20 or 25 MLAs.
Sharad Pawar and other senior NCP leaders visited Uddhav’s residence, Matoshree, in the evening to discuss the strategy for the battle ahead.
Uddhav on Friday moved to firm up his hold on the party machinery, calling district chiefs and other office-bearers to an emotional interaction.
While his son Aditya met party workers at the Sena Bhavan, Uddhav addressed them through videoconferencing, describing how his own people had conspired against him while he was admitted to a hospital for spine surgery. The chief minister had had spine surgery late last year.
Asserting he was not playing a power game, Uddhav said: “These people want to break the Shiv Sena. They used to vow publicly that they would die but not leave the Shiv Sena, but they have run away.”
He added: “One defeat doesn’t matter; even Shivaji was defeated. The flowers, fruits and branches of the tree can be taken away but the roots remain.”
Although Uddhav didn’t attack the BJP, Aditya alleged that the rebel MLAs had been bought off with money. He said it was shocking that, when the Congress and the NCP had stood firm behind the Sena, the party’s own people had betrayed it.
Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut has been attacking the BJP, claiming the fire it has ignited would singe its own hand.
Protests broke out on the ground after Uddhav’s interaction with party workers, with Sena cadres demonstrating against the rebels and attacking their offices.
Uddhav’s push to capture the organisation will put the rebels at a disadvantage because of their absence from the battleground. Even if they acquire the numbers to pull the government down, winning over the Sena cadre would be difficult for them.
Sena workers condemned those sitting in Guwahati as “traitors” and predicted that doing politics will become difficult for them.
The protests are likely to be escalated once the rebels return to Maharashtra. The objective is to lure away some of them to ensure that the rebel group does not have the numbers to escape the axe of the anti-defection law.
A legal battle looms with the Sena leadership moving to get 16 rebel MLAs, including Shinde, disqualified. The Sena believes that if Shinde is disqualified, it may trigger panic within the rebel camp, forcing the others to rethink.
Shinde too consulted legal experts in Guwahati and questioned the Sena’s move and deputy Speaker Narhari Zirwal’s authority to disqualify the rebels who are the bigger bloc.
Maharashtra doesn’t have a Speaker at present, with the deputy Speaker discharging the responsibilities. The deputy Speaker, who belongs to the NCP, is expected to help the government, and the rebels may be forced to seek redress from the courts.
The government hopes to use the intervening period to persuade or pressure the remaining MLAs, or a few of them, and secure a way out of the crisis.