MVA govt. faces grim survival crisis as Sena Minister, MLAs on verge of revolt
Mumbai, June 21, 2022
The Maha Vikas Agadhi (MVA) government in Maharashtra on Tuesday faced its worst political crisis as at least one Shiv Sena Minister along with several MLAs veered towards a revolt and are now parked in Gujarat.
Sena MP and Chief Spokesperson Sanjay Raut, however, dismissed speculation that a "political earthquake" is in the offing in Maharashtra, but accused the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of hatching its biggest conspiracy to topple the MVA government.
"There is no basis for the so-called 'political earthquake' as is being touted in some circles... This is an attempt to hit at the MVA and the plot is being staged on Gujarat soil. It will prove to be futile as in the past," Raut declared.
Admitting that Minister Shinde, along with several MLAs are "not reachable", Raut claimed that "contact has been developed with some legislators" and attempts are on to defuse the crisis.
A Congress leader said that "there's no immediate threat to the MVA" though "frantic efforts are underway to bring down the government ahead of the civic polls in Maharashtra and the states' elections later in the year.
As a precaution, the Congress is planning to herd its flock and has summoned all its MLAs to rush to Mumbai this evening.
The Nationalist Congress Party is also keeping close tabs on its legislators even as Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis airdashed to New Delhi to consult party bigwigs.
Hours after the MLC biennial election results were announced, political activity suddenly hotted up and Shinde, along with an estimated one to two dozen legislators suddenly became "incommunicado", alarming the MVA leaders.
Early this morning, it emerged that Minister Shinde along with his supporting MLAs, had parked himself in Le Meridien Hotel in the diamond hub of Surat, barely a 3-hour drive from Mumbai.
Raut said that since early morning all the MVA allies are in hectic consultations with all the top leaders and a crucial meeting has been convened by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray this afternoon.
The Sena MP flayed the BJP for unleashing central investigation agencies to intimidate political leaders and making attempts to grab power as it did in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh in the past few years.
"Let them make all attempts to dislodge the MVA government... We shall weather this crisis soon and clear all the misunderstandings of our ministers and legislators," said Raut.
Meanwhile, Shinde posted a telling tweet indicating his "rebellious" mood.
"We are Balasaheb (Thackeray)'s staunch Shiv Sainiks. Balasaheb has taught us Hindutva. We have never and will never compromise on the teachings of Balasaheb and 'dharmaveer' Anand Dighe for power," said Shinde in a tweet in Marathi.
Significantly, he has knocked off the Shiv Sena logo from his Twitter handle, which was noted by the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) allies.
The Sena hit back by sacking Shinde as the party leader in the legislature and replacing him with Ajay Chaudhari this afternoon.
While preparing to join hands with the BJP, Shinde has kept a lifeline open with the MVA with proposals and counter-proposals changing hands between Maharashtra-Gujarat.
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) President Sharad Pawar made it clear that there is no need for a leadership change in Maharashtra.
Pawar also said Shinde never expressed his desire to become the Chief Minister, but made it clear that it is an internal issue of the Sena and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray would handle the matter and sort it out.
Congress Minister Ashok Chavan and senior leader Prithviraj Chavan declined to comment on the Sena's internal matter, but admitted that the MVA faced a crisis, while NCP's Minister Chhagan Bhujbal expressed optimism that the political storm would clear in a day or so.
The BJP leaders have been hinting that a 'change of government' in the state is inevitable, though no top leaders are officially commenting till the undeclared 'Operation Lotus' is a success.
Meanwhile, thousands of Shiv Sena men and women activists staged protest demonstrations in south Mumbai on Tuesday against what they termed as the "BJP-instigated" rebellion led by Shinde.
Sena leader Ravindra Mirlekar slammed the manner in which many of party MLAs were "misled" and taken to Surat in neighbouring Gujarat where they learnt of the real game of the BJP.
"After yesterday's (Monday's) elections, in which both the Sena candidates won, there were a lot of celebrations... Many of these MLAs were lured to go for a party and whisked off to Gujarat for such ulterior motives. Now, they are calling us up and want to return safely," he said.
Mirlekar warned that those who rebel will "not be forgiven", but those who come back will be accepted into the party fold as they have not gone voluntarily and many are in touch with the party leadership.
Mumbai South Women Wing President Jayshree Ballikar, addressing the gathering, said that this is not the first time the Sena has faced such a crisis and in the past, too, there were several others who "back-stabbed" the party.
"Now, just see what their fate is. The Sena, right from Balasaheb Thackeray has done a lot for these leaders, but now they have betrayed Sena President and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray for their selfish interests. However, we are fully with the party and its leaders," she said.
South Mumbai Sena leader Pandurang Sakpal said the protest march was carried out in a disciplined manner to express the anguish of the Shiv Sainiks at the unwarranted rebellion by some of the greedy elements.
He said the Sena is hopeful that those who have been taken away against their wishes will come back and help strengthen the party built out of the struggles of Balasaheb and Uddhav Thackeray and other senior leaders.
Thousands of Sainiks sporting party flags, raising slogans against the rebels and the BJP, staged noisy protests in south Mumbai, hitting traffic in the evening peak hours.
Reports of similar big and small protests by Sena activists were received from other parts of Maharashtra as the party's top leadership made hectic efforts to defuse the biggest political crisis confronting the MVA government.