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Congress advises Eknath Shinde, MLAs to leave flood-hit Assam

Opposition argues that their stay has not only 'sullied' the image of the state but is also hindering relief operations
Shiv Sena workers at a protest rally against rebel leader Eknath Shinde in Kolhapur, Maharashtra, on Friday.
Shiv Sena workers at a protest rally against rebel leader Eknath Shinde in Kolhapur, Maharashtra, on Friday.
PTI picture

Umanand Jaiswal   |   Guwahati   |   Published 25.06.22, 01:52 AM

The Opposition Congress on Friday advised Maharashtra rebel Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde and the MLAs supporting him to leave flood-hit Assam at the earliest in the “greater interest” of the state, arguing that their stay had not only “sullied” the image of the state but was also hindering relief operations. 

The Assam PCC conveyed its advice in a letter delivered to Shinde through a police officer after its leaders and members staged a protest near the five-star hotel where at least 50 rebel Maharashtra MLAs, including Independents, have put up. 

Hours before the Congress-led protest outside the hotel on Friday, Sanjay Bhosale, claiming to be a Shiv Sena leader from Satara district, stood outside the hotel with a placard, appealing to the Shiv Sena MLAs to return and sort out their differences with Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray. Since the hotel has been barred to non-guests and media, he was not allowed entry. The police whisked him away for questioning.   

In his letter to Shinde, Assam PCC president Bhupen Kumar Borah said the “support to your presence here” by the BJP-led government and chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has “sullied” the image of Assam and Assamese people.

“Sarma and the government machinery should be busy with the management of the flood crisis but your presence here has been standing as a hindrance. Considering the damage that you have caused to Assam and its people by your presence, I would like to advise you to leave Assam at the earliest in the greater interest of the state.”

The letter states that Shinde and the other MLAs have been kept in the hotel for “alleged horse-trading to topple” the elected Maharashtra government and the “continued” media coverage of the same has “not” gone down well with the Assamese people for “creating an unhealthy atmosphere” and also because of the “devastating” flood situation with the affected suffering in “absence” of adequate flood relief.

He also pointed out that under such a critical situation, the presence of the rebel MLAs and the state government getting busy with “providing royal hospitality to you, is quite unfair and  unacceptable”.

“Assam has been defamed by your presence considering Guwahati as a safe haven for MLAs who have no respect for constitutional values and loyalty at all,” Borah said, accusing chief minister Sarma of “encouraging and supporting political horse-trading in Assam”.

PCC media chief Manjit Mahanta said they wanted the state government to first provide adequate food and cloth to the flood-affected instead of being busy with the rebel MLAs.

The Trinamul Congress had staged a 20-minute anti-government protest outside the hotel gate on Thursday, with state unit chief Ripun Bora accusing the ruling BJP of ignoring the suffering of the flood-hit in its keenness to topple the Maharashtra government in a subversion of democratic principles.

AAP state coordinator Bhaben Choudhury asked “why this thing” was being “hosted” when people in the state were suffering because of widespread flood.

Sources said around 45 rebel MLAs were in the hotel and at least 70 rooms had been booked for a week, each costing around Rs 5,000 a day.

With efforts at reconciliation not yielding the desired result and the Shiv Sena seeking the disqualification of 16 rebel MLAs for anti-party activities, the power tussle could trigger a protracted legal battle, they said.

Shinde had gone out of the hotel for around three hours on Friday. It is believed he could have consulted some legal experts on the unfolding situation.

Bhosale, who had appealed for reconciliation, said he had come from Maharashtra and was a poor man. “All these MLAs staying here were also poor but they are what they are today is because of Balasaheb Thackeray (Sena founder). I am not interested in who forms the government. I just want that they return and reconcile their differences,” Bhosale said.

The Shiv Sena has 55 MLAs in the Maharashtra Assembly. To ensure a split or merge with another party, Shinde will required 37 MLAs, two thirds of the 55 MLAs, to escape anti-defection law.

Crisis gripped the ruling Shiv Sena soon after the BJP fared better than the ruling MVA alliance in the Legislative Council polls on Monday, with Shinde leaving for Surat with MLAs loyal to him and then to Guwahati on Wednesday. 

Sarma had said he had nothing to do with the political development and that he had been busy overseeing flood relief by visiting affected areas. He had said the arrival of the Maharashtra MLAs during flood was a “positive” development because it would help the state earn some revenue. 

“People from all over should come, especially at this time (during flood). We will earn something by way of tax... it would also help us in some way to tackle the flood,” Sarma had said.

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