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Eknath Shinde stays our leader in House: 37 rebel MLAs write to Maharashtra Deputy Speaker

Vibha Sharma

New Delhi, June 23

In a midnight development, 37 rebel Shiv Sena MLAs wrote to Maharashtra Assembly’s Deputy Speaker, declaring that Eknath Shinde remained their leader in the Assembly.

Claims, counterclaims

The first video shared by Shinde had 42 MLAs. However, only 35 of them said to be from Sena
His side claims support from at least 37/38 Sena MLAs amp; 9 Independents
For Uddhav’s meet, only 13 MLAs came, but group claims attendance of 18. Also, says 21 from Shinde camp with them

Floor test ahead?

If govt loses majority, Uddhav will have to step down. If he doesn’t, Guv may seek floor test
Another possibility is that Shinde group may approach Guv amp; pledge support to BJP. In that case, MVA can be asked to prove majority

Sena for 12 MLAs’ disqualification

Shiv Sena has approached the Deputy Speaker, seeking the disqualification of 12 rebel MLAs who did not attend a party meeting in Mumbai on Thursday.
Responding to the disqualification demand, Shinde said: “You cannot scare us. We know the law, so we do not pay heed to threats.”

Earlier in the day, confusion prevailed over the exact number of MLAs supporting Shinde, who put out videos and photos marking his show of strength against Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.

Addressing rebel MLAs, Shinde said one big national party had lauded him. “One national party, which is a super power, has told me that whatever decision you have taken is historic. It has assured us (rebel MLAs) that whatever help is needed, will be given,” Shinde said in Marathi, amid cheers from supporters. Senior Sena leader Sanjay Raut, meanwhile, said the party was ready to quit the Maha Vikas Aghadi if those camping in Guwahati return to Mumbai in 24 hours and talk to Thackeray.

Backing Sena, NCP supremo Sharad Pawar expressed confidence in the MVA surviving the storm. “A floor test will decide who has the majority. Everyone knows how rebel Shiv Sena MLAs were taken to Gujarat and then Assam,” he said.

Maharashtra Congress chief Nana Patole said the party was with the Sena. Deputy CM and senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar also said the party would stand with Uddhav till the end. While the Uddhav side presented MLA Nitish Deshmukh to substantiate claims that Sena legislators had been “forcibly” taken to Surat, the Shinde put out a letter by MLA Sanjay Shirsat, highlighting grievances of legislators.

Shirsat claimed that Shinde took the step of going against the party leadership as Sena MLAs had been facing “humiliation” for the past two and a half years. The rebel MLA said despite Sena being in power and having its own CM, the coterie around Uddhav never allowed them have access to Varsha —CM’s official residence.

While Sena legislators had no access to the CM, their “real opponents” Congress and NCP got all the attention, Shirsat claimed, adding that Sena MLAs were not even allowed to accompany Aaditya Thackeray to Ayodhya.

Earlier, Bharat Gogawale, who has been appointed the party’s chief whip by rebels, said 42 Sena MLAs were supporting Shinde and more would join. On whether Shinde would be the next CM, Gogawale said: “Who does not want to become the CM? He is the first choice.”

Emerging as a leader in his own right, Shinde has said the MVA alliance is “unnatural” and only NCP and Congress have benefited from the tie-up. “While NCP and Congress got stronger, Shiv Sainiks and Sena got weaker.”

Apart from providing logistics support, the BJP is refraining from making any official comments. The leadership, however, is keeping a close watch, especially on Pawar, who seems to have taken the charge of the situation in Maharashtra. Sources say former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis is in constant touch with the central leadership.

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