With 33 legislators on his side, the rebel Shiv Sena leader demands his party to form government with the BJP.

In an unprecedented development, the Maha Vikas Agadi government headed by Chief Minister Udhav Thackeray on Tuesday found itself in turmoil when Shiv Sena leader and Urban Development and Public Works Minister Eknath Shinde revolted against the party leadership, with sizeable number of legislators lending support to him. Shinde is learned to have moved to Surat with an entourage of 33 rebel Shiv Sena legislators, and from there to Ahmadabad. Sources in the beleaguered ruling Shiv Sena–NCP– Congress combine told The Daily Guardian Review that Shinde can wean away more legislators taking the strength of the rebel faction to 40. The crisis may destabilize the government, which is half way through its term that would end in November 2024. The entire leadership of the Shiv Sena–NCP–Congress combine went into a tizzy after Shinde went incommunicado early in the day so did over dozen legislators. Initially, it was said that Shinde had herded about a dozen legislators out to a Surat hotel in BJP-ruled Gujarat. Later on their number swelled to 17. As the high-voltage drama unfolded during the day, it is said that Shinde has been joined by 33 legislators. Among the three ministers to have joined the rebels are Minister of State Abdul Sattar and Shamburaje Desai. According to sources, NCP MLA Manikrao Kokate is also not reachable. Reacting to the development, Rajya Sabha member and senior Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said, “Many Shiv Sean leaders are not in Mumbai. It is not earth shattering. What we are witnessing is just some drizzles out there. A repeat of the Rajasthan and MP pat

tern is in the works. They are trying to weaken Shiv Sena to win Mumbai.” Saying that a party has to face such types of situation many times, Raut added, “We will not allow the coup against our government happen through Shinde. Shinde has been a loyal Shiv Sena worker. He is a Balasaheb’s Sainik.” Raut further said, “Anil Parab has been summoned by ED today. It is clear that how efforts are being made to destabilise the government.” Parab is Minister of Transport in the Maharashtra Government.

According to sources, Shinde is willing to stay with Shiv Sena but the party would have to part ways with Congress–NCP, because the Shiv Sena is declining in the MVA government. It is only the NCP which is benefiting out of the alliance, as the party has cornered all important portfolios. Shiv Sena does not have any important portfolios. The NCP MLAs are also getting funds, while Shiv Sena legislators are left high and dry.

Earlier in the day, Shiv Sena leader Milind Narvekar rushed to Surat and held talks with Shinde at the Le Meridian Hotel. But 45 minutes of persuasion did not work on Shinde, said sources, as the rebel leader is adamant on his demand of Shiv Sena parting ways with NCP and Congress to form government with BJP.

Uddhav Thackeray is also learned to have spoken to Shinde over phone for 20 minutes, facilitated by Narvekar. Shinde insisted on Shiv Sena patch up with the BJP. The Maharashtra Chief Minister tried to convince him to come back to Mumbai and thrash out the issue. However, Shinde is unwilling to change his stand on Shiv Sena-BJP patch-up.

Reacting to Shinde’s demand, Raut said, “We are in touch with Eknath Shinde. I have come to know that he is asking us to form the government with the BJP. But Shinde himself is a witness to how the BJP betrayed the Shiv Sena. There is no room for such terms and conditions in Shiv Sena politics.”

Thackeray also spoke to Sharad Pawar. The senior NCP leader politely told Thackeray to sort out the issue as the crisis was caused by their internal party differences.

Reacting to the day’s developments, Congress Maharashtra in-charge HK Patil said, “The situation as seen in the morning is no longer there. Maha Vikas Agadi government is not going to fall. Our leaders are in touch with Chief Minister Udhav Thackeray. We have 44 MLAs. Some of them indulged in cross voting which we are taking seriously.”

One of the grudges that Shinde has against Shiv Sena leadership, according to sources, is that Udhav’s son Aditya was interfering with his department. The Secretary and IAS officers have refused to sign on files without consulting the Chief Minister’s Office.