New Delhi: Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut has indicated that Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray could recommend to Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari to dissolve the state assembly, as the crisis for the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government deepened. Two MLAs from the rebel camp have, meanwhile, returned to the MVA fold, noting they had been taken against their will.
“The political developments in Maharashtra are headed towards dissolution of the state assembly,” Raut said.
A group of Maharashtra MLAs, led by dissident Shiv Sena dissident leader Eknath Shinde, arrived at Guwahati in Assam on the morning of June 22, by a charter aircraft and were taken to a luxury hotel on the outskirts of the city amid tight security.
The MLAs were received at the airport by BJP MPs Pallab Lochan Das and Sushanta Borgohain.
Shinde, who initially refused to talk to reporters waiting outside the airport, later said he has ‘the support of 40 MLAs’.
#WATCH | “A total of 40 Shiv Sena MLAs are present here. We will carry Balasaheb Thackeray’s Hindutva,” said Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde after arriving in Guwahati, Assam pic.twitter.com/YpSrGbJvdt
— ANI (@ANI) June 22, 2022
Shiv Sena MLAs Kailash Patil and Nitin Deshmukh have meanwhile returned from the Eknath Shinde camp and pledged support to Uddhav Thackeray. Both have alleged that they were taken to Gujarat against their will.
“”I was forcibly taken to Surat. I am absolutely fine. I didn’t have a heart attack. I was abducted by over 20-25 people, was locked inside a hospital room. I was injected with something forcefully and hospitalised against my will. I belong to Uddhav Thackeray’s Sena,” Deshmukh said.
Patil made it clear that he was taken to Gujarat against will.
“I was put in a vehicle and taken outside Mumbai against my will. Mid-way, when the vehicle was about to cross over to Gujarat, I sensed something is wrong. I asked them to stop at a toilet close by and then escaped from there. I ran 4-5 kilometres and then headed back to Bombay. Local truck drivers helped me get back to Mumbai,” he told reporters.
Earlier, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut claimed 14 to 15 Sena MLAs, including some ministers, are with Shinde in Gujarat’s Surat city. However, another party leader said the number could be 23.
The Shiv Sena, which heads the MVA, has 55 MLAs, followed by allies NCP (53) and the Congress (44) in the 288-assembly where the current simple majority mark is 144.
Thus, the BJP can form the government if Shinde and other rebels decide to resign from the assembly in support of the saffron party. In that case, the BJP with 106 MLAs (38 short of majority 144) will be positioned well to dislodge the Mahavikas Aghadi government in an assembly with reduced strength.
Meanwhile, in Assam
Speculation is rife that Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma is likely to meet the MLAs during the day. However, the BJP party or his office are yet to confirm the meeting.
Tight security has been imposed, with a huge posse of police personnel posted in and around the hotel.
The MLAs were taken to Surat from Mumbai on Tuesday and the decision to shift them to Guwahati was taken on security grounds, PTI reported, quoting a BJP source.
This is perhaps for the first time that MLAs from a western Indian state is being taken to a northeastern state after rebellion against the party leadership.
The Wire has reported that a Sena loyalist, Shinde had been unhappy with the party’s direction. “He felt he was not being kept in the loop even when important policies were being formulated and party decisions were being taken,” said a party leader.
(With PTI inputs)
Note: First published at 9.09 am on June 22, 2022, this report is being updated and republished with information as it comes in.