As Eknath Shinde’s rebel ranks swell, Uddhav Thackeray quits CM’s residence

MUMBAI: The Maha Vikas Aghadi government led by Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray appeared to be on the brink due to Shiv Sena’s rebellion. The Sena rebels’ count at the time of going to press was only two or three short of the figure of 37 they need to avoid attracting provisions of the anti-defection law.
By evening, Thackeray, who tested Covid positive, offered to make way for another Sena leader as CM. However, it appeared to have made little impact on the rebels.
Thackeray then moved out of his official residence Varsha with his family and returned to Matoshree, his residence. But Sena MP Sanjay Raut said Thackeray would not resign. “If given a chance, the government will prove its majority in the assembly,” Raut said.
Meanwhile, Shinde, who is staking out with his loyalists in a Guwahati hotel, reiterated the need to break with MVA by tweeting, “In the last 2.5 years of MVA, only the coalition partners benefited and Shiv Sainiks suffered. The Shiv Sena and Shiv Sainiks were systematically emasculated.” He said it was necessary to leave the unnatural MVA alliance and it was important to take a decision “for the benefit of Maharashtra”.
Nitin Deshmukh, who came back to Thackeray’s fold, claimed he had been taken away forcibly, hospitalised and given an injection against his will. He said the signature on the letter of the rebel faction was not his.
But the dissident ranks continued to swell. Minister of state Bachchu Kadu from the Prahaar Janshakti Party also joined Shinde and claimed they have support of 50 MLAs, including independents. Sena MP Bhawna Gawali, who faces an ED probe, weighed in with the rebels and asked the CM to side with Hindutva. Raut made light of the rebellion in the morning, saying Sena MLAs were enjoying “tourism in Kaziranga.” But by the afternoon, he indicated the government may not last by tweeting, “Maharashtra’s political developments are heading towards the dissolution of the state assembly”. Meanwhile, NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal said political parties should always be ready for mid-term polls.
Sena then moved to act against the rebels by calling a meeting of MLAs at 5pm. The letter issued by the party’s chief whip Sunil Prabhu said those who did not attend will be considered as wanting to leave the party.
The rebel faction struck back. In a letter to Governor Koshyari and deputy speaker of the assembly, Shinde said his removal as group leader of the Sena legislature party at a meeting on Tuesday was invalid since the meeting was attended by only 16 of the party’s 55 MLAs. Shinde sent a resolution signed by 34 Sena MLAs reaffirming he was the leader of the Sena legislature party. The letter also appointed party rebel Bharat Gogawale as the party’s chief whip, replacing Sunil Prabhu.
Thackeray then met NCP leaders, including Sharad Pawar, before making an emotional online address to the rebels. “If my own people do not want me, I will go in the next second. Even if one MLA tells me that to my face or on the phone that I am incapable and should step down, I will leave. My resignation letter is ready,” he said. He added, “If another Sena leader becomes chief minister, I will be happy.”
By 8pm, Thackeray had packed his bags and left his official residence, with the party cadre mobilised and gathered to cheer him. However, Thackeray faces the toughest test of his political career. Unlike earlier revolts in the party, this one threatens to break away the bulk of the Sena’s MLAs.

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