Forty Maharashtra MLAs including 33 Shiv Sena and seven independent MLAs exhorted their support to rebel Shiv Sena leader and state Cabinet Minister Eknath Shinde by signing a letter, said sources.
Sources further said the rebel legislators may write to Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari seeking for floor test in the State Legislative Assembly. The 40 MLAs led by Shinde arrived at a luxury hotel in Guwahati in BJP-ruled Assam on Wednesday.
The revolt in the Shiv Sena has given rise to speculations that Shinde along with other MLAs might join the BJP in a bid to topple the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government.
"A total of 40 MLAs are present here. We will carry Balasaheb Thackeray's Hindutva," said Shinde after arriving in Guwahati.The Shiv Sena MLAs were received by BJP MLA Sushanta Borgohain and BJP MP Pallab Lochan Das at Guwahati airport. Shinde along with Shiv Sena and independent legislatures was staying in a hotel in Gujarat's Surat following the cross-voting in Maharashtra Legislative Council (MLC) polls and took flight earlier today to reach Guwahati.
Before leaving for Guwahati, a video was released in which all the rebel MLAs are seen sitting together in a Surat hotel. In another video, all the MLAs are seen putting their signatures on paper. It is believed that by releasing the video, the Eknath Shinde faction demonstrated its strength with the number of MLAs. Shiv Sena throughout Tuesday continued to say that only 10 to 15 MLAs are with Shinde however, after the video Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut's claim stood false.
Uddhav calls for meet
Notably, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has called a State Cabinet meeting at 1 pm on Wednesday. In the wake of recent political developments in Maharashtra, Congress deputed its senior leader and former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath as All India Congress Committee (AICC) observer in the State.
"The Congress president has deputed Kamal Nath AICC observer in the wake of recent political developments in the State, with immediate effect," Congress said in an official statement.
On the other hand, when Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar was asked about the crisis in MVA, he termed the turmoil "an internal matter of the Sena". Pawar also said he remains fully committed to the three-party government. He also ruled out any tie-up with the Opposition BJP. The developments came up after suspected cross-voting in Maharashtra Legislative Council (MLC) elections in which the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) bagged five seats, in a major blow to the MVA alliance government. NCP and Shiv Sena won two each while Congress was able to clinch one seat out of the total 10 seats in Legislative Council that went to the polls on Monday.
After the MLC elections, Shinde along with some other Shiv Sena MLAs was staying at Le Meridien hotel in Surat. A Shiv Sena delegation comprising Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray's close aides Milind Narvekar and Ravindra Phatak had also met Shinde and other party legislators in Surat. Alleging that efforts are being made to topple the MVA government, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut on Tuesday had confirmed that some Shiv Sena MLAs and Eknath Shinde were currently "not reachable". He said that Shiv Sena MLAs were in Surat and they were not being allowed to leave.
BJP to ‘consider’ the plan
Maharashtra BJP chief Chandrakant Patil, however, said that his party would "definitely consider" a proposal if it comes from Shinde to form an alternative government. Amid the drama, Shinde took a veiled dig at Shiv Sena for joining hands with Congress and NCP to form the government in the State and tweeted, "We are Balasaheb's staunch Shiv Sainiks ... Balasaheb has taught us Hindutva. We have never and will never cheat for power regarding Balasaheb's thoughts and Dharmaveer Anand Dighe Saheb's teachings." Shinde has also dropped "Shiv Sena" from his Twitter bio. He has been instrumental in strengthening the organisation in the Thane region and was made the Leader of the Opposition in the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly in 2014 after the Shiv Sena parted ways with the BJP. Shinde was appointed as a cabinet minister in the MVA government. However, sources said Shinde has been feeling sidelined since the formation of the MVA government. His son Shrikant Shinde represents the Kalyan Lok Sabha seat.
Amid these developments, Shiv Sena leaders met Deputy Speaker of Maharashtra Assembly Narhari Zirwal and handed over him a letter requesting to remove Eknath Shinde from the Legislative party leader's post and replace him with Ajay Chaudhary as Shiv Sena Legislative party leader. Shiv Sena's Sanjay Raut has claimed the rebellion has been engineered by the BJP to topple the ruling MVA alliance a claim denied by the BJP.
Maharashtra BJP chief Chandrakant Patil claimed that "technically" the state government is in "minority" as Eknath Shinde and other Shiv Sena MLAs have gone. He said that the BJP was presently in a "wait and watch" mode and added that there has not been any proposal regarding government formation neither from the BJP nor from Shinde. "BJP got support from independents and small political parties for Rajya Sabha and MLC elections. As per our information, Eknath Shinde and 35 MLAs have gone. This means technically state government is in minority but practically it will take some time for the government to be in minority," he said. "It's too early to say anything, we are currently waiting and keeping an eye on the situation. So far, there has not been any proposal regarding government formation neither from the BJP nor from Eknath Shinde but anything can happen in politics at any time," the BJP leader added.
There are a total of 288 members in the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly. So the halfway mark is 145 to form the government. With 106 MLAs, BJP is the largest party in the House. Shiv Sena has 55 MLAs, NCP 53, Congress 44 and Bahujan Vikas Aghadi (BVA) has three MLAs in the assembly. After the death of a Shiv Sena MLA, currently, 287 MLAs are there in the Assembly and 144 MLAs are now needed to form the government.Before the rebellion, the Shivsena-led MVA government enjoyed the support of 169 MLAs, while the BJP-led Opposition camp had 113 MLAs besides, five other MLAs.
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