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Eknath Shinde says he has support of 50 MLAs

Rebel Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde in Guwahati on Tuesday, June 28, 2022.

Rebel Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde in Guwahati on Tuesday, June 28, 2022. | Photo Credit: PTI

Breaking the suspense over the rebel camp’s extended Guwahati sojourn, Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde on Tuesday claimed that he had the support of 50 MLAs and would soon be returning to Mumbai.

Speaking in Guwahati, Mr. Shinde, along with other Sena MLAs in his camp, including Uday Samant, emphatically said they were still in the Shiv Sena and that their actions were aimed at preserving the party and the ‘Hindutva’ ideals of late Sena founder Bal Thackeray.  

“Let there be no doubt that we are in the Shiv Sena and are taking the party forward. We will let you know about our further course of action. I will be in Mumbai soon,” Mr. Shinde said.

He quashed Maharashtra Minister Aaditya Thackeray’s claim that 15 to 20 MLAs in the rebel faction had alleged they had been “abducted” and that they had reportedly reached out to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s camp to bring them back to Mumbai from Guwahati.

“No MLA has been pressurised or is being suppressed…everyone here is happy and has joined of his or her own volition. If they [Thackeray camp] claim that the MLAs present here are in contact with them, then they should reveal their names,” he added.

Mr. Samant, in a bid to refute accusations by the Mr. Uddhav’s camp that the rebels were “traitors” to the party, stressed that the electorate should not be misled.

Mr. Samant, whose Higher and Technical Education portfolio was re-assigned to Mr. Aaditya, hit out at the Sena’s ally in the ruling ‘Maha Vikas Aghadi’ government, the Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), while accusing the latter of being responsible for the defeat of Sena candidate Sanjay Pawar in the Rajya Sabha elections held earlier this month.

Sena MLA Suhas Kande said that if one had to take ‘Hindutva’ forward, then Mr. Shinde’s leadership was the only alternative, while another rebel MLA Shahaji Patil said that the Sena was being “decimated” by its current allies, the NCP and the Congress.”

The Shinde camp, along with their spokesperson, Sindhudurg MLA Deepak Kesarkar, have especially singled out Sena MP Sanjay Raut for his harsh invective and for being the root cause of the Sena’s “downfall”. They have accused Mr. Raut of acting like the NCP’s agent in keeping the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Sena apart.

Raut hits back

A day after Deepak Kesarkar put out an open letter severely criticising Mr. Raut, the latter hit back at the rebel camp at a rally in Alibaug (in Raigad district) on Tuesday.

Questioning the rebels’ sudden concern for ‘Hindutva’, Mr. Raut pointed that 21 of the MLAs currently with Mr. Shinde, including Mr. Kesarkar and Mr. Samant, had come from other parties into the Shiv Sena, mainly the NCP.

“Twenty-one of the rebel MLAs in Guwahati came to Shiv Sena from other parties, primarily the NCP. So, what relation do they have with Hindutva? Don’t teach us [the Uddhav Thackeray faction] about ‘Hindutva’,” Mr. Raut said.

He further reiterated his controversial remark that the Shiv Sena would consider exiting the MVA government, but only if the rebels had the courage to come to Mumbai and spell out their concerns in person to Mr. Uddhav Thackeray.

“Those who have stabbed the Thackeray family in the back, have been finished…These traitors [Shinde camp] have no right to roam Mumbai’s roads. If you really have a majority, then why are you hiding in Guwahati?” Mr. Raut said.

He again said that it was only because of the BJP’s betrayal of the allegedly promised ‘50-50 power-sharing formula’ in 2019 that Eknath Shinde could not be the Chief Minister.

“And today, these people [Sena rebels] are out to make an alliance with the BJP. If you really want the Sena to exit the MVA, then you’ll should come to Mumbai and say so. We will exit the government … but out there in Guwahati, you people are mere slaves,” he said.

Earlier, attacking the dissident MLAs, Mr. Aaditya Thackeray, too, had accused them of “betraying” the party while remarking that the Sena had been “cleansed of the dirt” due to their rebellion.

Meanwhile, former Maharashtra Chief Minister and Leader of the Opposition Devendra Fadnavis flew to Delhi yet again to discuss the political situation in the State with the BJP high command. According to sources, Mr. Fadnavis has made no less than four visits to Delhi since the political storm, which is threatening to destabilise the MVA government, erupted last week.

The BJP however, downplayed the frequent Delhi visits by claiming that they were merely routine.

Shiv Sena rebellion

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Printable version | Jul 20, 2022 1:44:31 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/maharashtra-political-turmoil-eknath-shinde-claims-support-of-50-mlas-says-he-will-return-to-mumbai-soon/article65576648.ece