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New Delhi: Facing a rebellion, the Shiv Sena on Wednesday asked all its MLAs in Maharashtra – including those accompanying dissident leader Eknath Shinde – to attend a legislature party meeting in Mumbai at 5 pm or face action under the anti-defection law.
Shinde, meanwhile, threw down the challenge to Uddhav Thackeray. The dissident leader, who moved to Guwahati from Surat early on Wednesday in a chartered aircraft, has been insisting that he continues to be a part of Sena. In a telephonic interview with a regional news channel, Shinde said that he has over 46 MLAs with him. Of them, he claimed most are from his own party and the rest are independent MLAs.
In the afternoon, he took to Twitter alleging that the decision to expel him from the party was invalid. He announced that another rebelling MLA, Bharat Gogawale, was elected as a chief whip of the party.
A letter signed by 34 dissident MLAs claimed that there has been “great dissatisfaction” among the Sena leaders following the arrest of two Maharashtra ministers – Anil Deshmukh and Nawab Malik – in recent times. While Deshmukh was arrested on corruption charges, Malik was accused of having links with the fugitive don Dawood Ibrahim. “Our party cadre has faced tremendous harassment and distress on both political as well as personal grounds from the opposition ideological parties, who are now a part of the Government,” the MLAs claim in the letter.
The MLAs further claimed that wished to “give a clean and honest government to the people of Maharashtra”, as envisioned by party founder Bal Thackeray and the present government was allegedly “compromising on the principle of Hindutva by aligning with the opposing ideologies.
They also said that though the Shiv Sena and the Bhartiya Janta Party had forged a pre-poll alliance for
the 2019 Maharashtra assembly elections, Uddhav Thackeray severed ties with the saffron party and formed an alliance with the “opposing parties”.
They resolved that Shinde continues to be the Shiv Sena legislature party leader and that Bharat Gogawale will be the party whip.
Uddhav camp calls for meeting
Shiv Sena chief whip Sunil 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, asking them to attend a meeting at 5 pm at the chief minister’s residence.
The Uddhav Thackeray-led party, which heads the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition with the Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress, has said leaders who do not turn up at the meeting will be presumed to be leaving the party.
“The Shiv Sena has called for an urgent meeting today evening at ‘Varsha’ bungalow 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.
‘Varsha’ is the official residence of Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray.
A day earlier, the Sena had removed Shinde as the leader of its legislature party in the Legislative Assembly.
The Shiv Sena has 55 MLAs in the assembly. Shinde had claimed the support of 40 MLAs, but Sanjay Raut, another party leader, has said that number is around 15.
“I have more numbers (of Shiv Sena MLAs) than needed (to form a separate group in the assembly without inviting the provision of the anti-defection law),” he told a Marathi TV channel.
The Shiv Sena-led MVA is tottering on the brink following the rebellion by Shinde who left Mumbai on Monday night with a sizeable number of MLAs and travelled to Surat in Gujarat. In the early hours of Wednesday, Shinde and rebel MLAs accompanying him were flown to Guwahati.
Two MLAs – Kailash Patil and Nitin Deshmukh – have returned to Mumbai and pledged support to Thackeray. They have claimed that they were taken to Gujarat against their will.
Raut has also indicated that there is a possibility that the assembly will be dissolved.
(With PTI inputs)
Note: This article was originally published at 4:25 pm and updated with additional inforamation.