INDIA. Mumbai: The mass uprising by Shiv Sena MLAs, allegedly supported by the BJP, on Tuesday under the leadership of Minister Eknath Shinde (Kopri Pachpakhadi constituency), put the three-party Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) Government in peril.
A group of 22 Shiv Sena MLAs who were holed up in Hotel Meridian, Surat (Gujarat) left for Guwahati in Assam by a Chartered plane late Tuesday night. BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis who was in New Delhi was slated to reach Surat and escort them to Guwahati.
The drama began soon after the Maharashtra Legislative Council (MLC) elections on Monday. After the election, Shinde and others left Vidhan Bhavan located in South Mumbai. They began their journey towards Surat on Monday night and reached Surat on Tuesday morning.
MLA Kailas Patil (Kalamb, Osmanabad) escaped under the guise of easing out at the Maharashtra-Gujarat border while other MLAs were being transported to Surat by various vehicles. To get to Mumbai, he travelled at least five kilometres on foot and then hailed rides from trucks and bikes.
After three Shiv Sena MLAs cross-voted in the election of the MLC, a meeting was convened by the Shiv Sena party chief and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray in Mumbai on Tuesday. But out of 55 only 18 Shiv Sena MLAs were reportedly present in the meeting.
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut claimed that 31 MLAs attended the meeting and a few others were attending agencies by Central Agencies including CBI.
In a tweet, Shinde said that he was neither against the Shiv Sena nor wanted chief ministership, but was against its unholy alliance with the NCP and the Congress to form the Government in Maharashtra.
“The Shiv Sena was deviating from the true Hindutva propagated by the Shiv Sena founder late Balasaheb Thackeray,” he added.
Later Shiv Sena Secretary Milind Narvekar and Shinde’s close aide Ravi Phatak reached Surat to persuade Shinde from defecting. But they couldn’t cut the ice since Shinde stuck to his demand that the Shiv Sena should sever its ties with the NCP and Congress and should form the Government with the BJP.
Subsequently, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had a telephonic talk with Shinde and tried to persuade him. However, Shinde stuck to his guns. Resultantly Thackeray removed Shinde from the post of the Group leader and announced the appointment of MLA Ajay Chowdhary (Shivdi Vidhan Sabha constituency) as the party’s Group leader in the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly.
The letter communicating the appointment, signed by 17 Shiv Sena MLAs, was handed over to the Vice President of the Assembly Narhari Sitaram Zirwal, by Shiv Sena MLAs Sunil Prabhu and Uday Samant.
Late on Tuesday night, Thackeray held a meeting with MVA constituents at his official residence “Varsha” in South Mumbai. The meeting was attended by Jayant Patil and Chhagan Bhujbal-NCP and Balasaheb Thorat and Ashok Chavan-Congress. In the meeting, Thackeray hoped that Shinde would reverse his decision.
With rebellion by Shinde, the strength of the MVA is slated to get reduced to 117 (Shiv Sena 20 (Since 35 MLAs are stated to be with Shinde), NCP 53, and Congress 44) as against the required number of 145 to prove the majority in the 288 members Maharashtra Legislative Assembly.
As against this, the strength of the BJP-led group is poised to muster the strength of 155 MLAs (BJP 106, Shinde group-35, Independents-13, MNS-01).
While Congress’s high command has summoned its MLAs to New Delhi on Wednesday, the AICC observer H K Patil reached Mumbai to assess the situation on Tuesday. Speaking to the media he said that the MVA Government was stable and there was no threat to its continuance.
Whereas the NCP Chief Sharad Pawar said that the probable defection of Shiv Sena MLAs was an internal issue of the Shiv Sena and it was Shiv Sena’s prerogative whom to make the chief minister. If the MVA loses its majority, the NCP was ready to seat on the Opposition benches, he added.
MLAs not reachable
The cell phones of most of the Shiv Sena MLAs from the defecting group were not-reachable throughout Tuesday. They included: Narendra Bhondekar (Bhandara), Lata Sonawane, (Chopda, Jalgaon), Kishore Appa Patil (Pachora, Jalgaon), Prakash Surve(Magthane, Borivali, Mumbai), Srinivas Vanga (Palghar), Balaji Kinikar (Ambernath (Thane district), Sambhuraje Deasi (Patan, Satara), Bharat Ghogavale (Mahad, Raigad), Mahendra Dalvi(Alibaug, Raigad), Mahendra Thorve (Karjat, Raigad), Nitin Deshmukh (Balapur,Akola), Sanjay Raimulkar ( Mehkar, Buldhana), Shahaji Patil (Sangola, Solapur), Pradip Jaiswal (Aurangabad Central), Abdul Sattar ( Sillod,Aurangabad), Vishwanath Bhoir (Kalyan West, Thane district), Shantaram More (Bhiwandi Rural, Thane district), Ramesh Bornare (Vaijapur, Aurangabad ), Dada Bhuse(Malegaon, Nasik)Suhas Kande (Nandgaon, Nashik), Tanaji Sawant (Paranda, Osmanabad), Anil Babar (Khanapur, Sangli), Mahesh Sambhajiraje Shinde (Koregaon, Satara), Sanjay Shirsat (Aurangabad West), Sandipan Bhumre( Paithan, Aurangabad), Dnyanraj Chowgule (Umarga, Osmanabad), Sanjay Gaikwad (Buldhana), Prakash Abitkar (Radhanagari, Kolhapur) and Udaysingh Rajput (Kannad, Aurangabad),
After MLA Nitin Deshmukh suffered a heart attack, he was admitted to the Civil Hospital in Surat. But since he did not return till Tuesday night, his wife Pranjal Deshmukh lodged a missing complaint with the Akola police.
Protests by Shiv Sainiks
No sooner did the news of MLAs Coup d’etat spread out, than there were massive protests outside Shiv Sena Bhavan in Dadar in Central Mumbai, Lalbaug in South Central Mumbai, Panvel, Kolhapur, and other parts of Maharashtra by Shiv Sena workers who branded Eknath Shinde as a traitor.
Former Mumbai Mayor Kishori Pednekar and others visited the Balasaheb Thackeray memorial at Shivaji Park and prayed that Shinde reversed his decision of joining the BJP to save the loss of face for the Shiv Sena.
About Eknath Shinde
Eknath Shinde joined the Shiv Sena in 1980 and grew under the stewardship of late Anand Dighe in Thane (near Mumbai). After working as a Shakha Pramukh (local head) he became a corporate in Thane Municipal Corporation in 1997. He won Assembly elections consecutively in 2004, 2009, 2014, and 2019. He was Assembly Opposition leader from October 2014 to December 2014. He was PWD (Cabinet) Minister from 2014 to 2019 in Devendra Fadnavis Government.
He became Urban Development Minister in November 2019 under MVA Govt headed by CM Uddhav Thackeray. He has also been a guardian minister of Thane and Gadchiroli.
History of Rebellions
The Coup d’etat by Shinde is considered the biggest in the Shiv Sena’s history which was formed on June 19, 1966. In 1991 Chhagan Bhujbal (then in Shiv Sena) had defected with 18 MLAs to join the Congress led by Sharad Pawar. That brought the Shiv Sena’s strength to 34 (from 52 MLAs) eventually late Gopinath Munde (BJP) claimed the post of Opposition Leader. Ganesh Naik began his career as an MLA in 1990 with Shiv Sena but later switched to the Nationalist Congress Party in 1999.
Narayan Rane (now Union Minister in Narendra Modi Government) was expelled from the Shiv Sena in 2005. Balasaheb Thackeray’s estranged nephew Raj quit the party to form his Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) in 2006.
Since over 50 percent of Shiv Sena MLAs (out of 55 MLAs) are slated to defect, they will not attract the provisions of the anti-Defection Act. Now after ascertaining the total strength of the MLAs, the BJP is expected to either directly stake the claim to form the Government or move a No-confidence Motion against the MVA Government stating that it has lost the majority in the lower house.