The Maha Vikas Aghadi government was jolted by a ‘revolt’ of Shiv Sena MLAs, led by urban development minister Eknath Shinde who checked in with some legislators at a five-star hotel in Gujarat’s Surat in the wee hours on Tuesday. Shinde claimed that he had the support of at least 22 MLAs, including an independent and the group wanted Uddhav Thackeray to form a government with the BJP. Late on Tuesday night, the MLAs were shifted to Guwahati in a Spice Jet aircraft.
Although the drama was similar to Jyotiraditya Scindia’s revolt in Madhya Pradesh against the Kamal Nath government and Sachin Pilot’s failed revolt in Rajasthan against the Gehlot government, BJP claimed it had ‘no role’ in the revolt. However, reports said BJP MLA Sanjay Kute and Mohit Kamboj met Shinde and held talks with him and other Sena MLAs. BJP had managed to form a government in MP and also in Karnataka after destabilising the Congress-JDS government after similar operations.
The Shiv Sena tried to quell the revolt by removing Shinde as legislature party chief. The party also claimed that several MLAs were beaten up and held against their will. Thackeray held meetings with Sena leaders on Tuesday morning where 27 out of 55 party MLAs attended. Six MLAs were unaccounted for.
The remaining Sena MLAs were moved to a hotel in Mumbai. Thackeray told them that he was confident that the rebellion would fizzle out and Shinde would return. As the threat of poaching loomed, BJP was ready to move its MLAs to Ahmedabad. The MVA held a crisis meeting, where Congress leaders Balasaheb Thorat, Ashok Chavan, Jayant Patil and NCP’s Dilip Walse Patil met Thackeray. NCP chief Sharad Pawar, in Delhi to attend a meeting on the joint Opposition candidate for the presidential election, returned to Mumbai and held consultations with party leaders on the Sena revolt. Congress deputed Kamal Nath as observer and dispatched him to Mumbai. It also called a meeting of its MLAs and the state party chief said that all its MLAs were accounted for.
Shinde had cross voted for BJP during the MLC polls and left for Surat on Monday evening. With parties shepherding their MLAs, there was no suspicion of Shinde and his group leaving together. According to a party insider, the Sena leadership found something amiss around 9 pm when they realised that several MLAs were not reachable on their phones. Shinde and his MLAs reached Surat by road and was provided police protection by the Gujarat Police as soon as they crossed Palghar and entered the state.
“We are staunch followers of Balasaheb Thackeray… Balasaheb has taught us Hindutva… Balasaheb’s thoughts and teachings of Dharmveer Anand Dighe have always taught us that we should never compromise for power and will never do it,” Shinde tweeted, criticising the chief minister for sharing power with the Congress and NCP by ‘compromising’ on the Sena’s ideology.