Shinde claims support of 46 MLAs
Mumbai: Faced with revolt by its senior member and Maharashtra Minister Eknath Shinde, the ruling Shiv Sena on Wednesday hinted at dissolution of the Assembly, while epicentre of the high voltage political drama gripping the state shifted from Surat to Guwahati in Assam, where the rebel leader and party MLAs backing him were flown in the wee hours. With Shinde, who has claimed the support of 46 MLAs, showing no signs of backing down from his rebellion, which has pushed the two-and-a-half-year old Shiv Sena-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government to the brink, party MP Sanjay Raut on said the ongoing political developments in Maharashtra could lead to dissolution of the state Assembly.
"The political developments in Maharashtra are headed towards dissolution of the state Assembly," tweeted Raut, a close aide of Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. Later, when asked to elaborate on the tweet, Raut, who is the Shiv Sena's chief spokesperson, said, "When such a situation arises in any state, I have seen that the Legislative Assembly is dissolved."
He parried the question on whether Chief Minister Thackeray will resign. Shinde, who has appointed his own chief whip of the Sena legislature, said he has 46 MLAs supporting him. "I have more numbers (of Shiv Sena MLAs) than needed (to form a separate group in the Assembly without inviting the anti-defection law provisions)," he told a Marathi TV channel.
The Sena has 55 members in the 288-member Maharashtra Assembly. A chartered flight carrying Shinde and Shiv Sena MLAs, who have rebelled against the party and were camping in a luxury hotel in Surat after raising a banner of revolt on Monday night, reached Guwahati in the BJP-ruled Assam in the early hours of Wednesday.
Struggling to tide over the deepening crisis, the Shiv Sena asked all its MLAs, including the rebels accompanying Shinde, to attend a legislature party meeting in Mumbai at 5 PM or face action under the anti-defection law. Hitting back, Shinde, camping in Guwahati with a section of Sena MLAs loyal to him, said the orders issued by Sena chief whip Sunil Prabhu are "legally invalid" as MLA Bharat Gogawale is being appointed as the party chief whip. Prabhu has written a letter and issued it to some Sena ministers, including the minister of state for Home Shambhuraj Desai who is currently staying with Shinde in Guwahati. "The Shiv Sena has called for an urgent meeting today evening at 'Varsha' bungalow (CM's official residence) as there have been attempts to make the MVA government unstable.
The details regarding the meeting have been shared with all the members (MLAs) on their registered e-mail address, Whatsapp and by way of SMS. "You cannot remain absent from the meeting without providing a valid and sufficient reason. If you do not attend the meeting, it would be presumed that you have a clear intention of leaving the party. Hence, there will be action taken against you based on the provisions for preventing anti-defection," the letter said. "Shiv Sena MLA Bharat Gogawale has been appointed as the chief whip of the Sena legislature. The orders issued by Sunil Prabhu about the meeting of MLAs are legally invalid," Shinde tweeted.
A day earlier, the Sena had removed Shinde as its group leader in the Legislative Assembly.