Mumbai: Amid a rebellion by Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde, party MP Sanjay Raut on Thursday said the Sena is ready to quit the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in Maharashtra if the group of rebel legislators camping in Assam returns to Mumbai in 24 hours and discusses the issue with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.
Shinde is currently camping with 37 rebel MLAs of the Sena and nine independents in Guwahati, which has plunged the party-led state government into a crisis. The NCP and Congress also share power in the Uddhav Thackeray-led dispensation.
"You say you are real Shiv Sainiks and will not quit the party. We are ready to consider your demand provided you come back to Mumbai in 24 hours and discuss the issue with CM Uddhav Thackeray. Your demand will be considered positively. Don't write letters on Twitter and WhatsApp," Raut told reporters here.
"The rebels who are out of Mumbai have raised the issue of Hindutva. If all these MLAs feel that Shiv Sena should walk out of the MVA, show guts to come back to Mumbai. You say you have issues only with the government and also say that you are true Shiv Sainiks...Your demand will be considered. But come and talk with Uddhav Thackeray," he added.
CM Thackeray had on Wednesday offered to quit the top post amid the rebellion by Shinde and later also vacated his official residence in south Mumbai before moving to his family home in suburban Bandra.
Cong will keep supporting ruling alliance: Minister Ashok Chavan
Amid rebellion by Shiv Sena strongman Eknath Shinde, Maharashtra PWD minister Ashok Chavan of the Congress on Thursday said his party's support to the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) will continue and asserted that the state assembly, and not hotels, was the appropriate place to decide if a government was in a majority or minority.
"We (the Congress) formed the MVA with the Shiv Sena and the NCP to stop the BJP (from coming to power). Our support to the MVA continues," Chavan told reporters after a meeting of Congress leaders discussed the prevailing political situation in the state.
When asked whether the MVA was ready for a floor test, Chavan said a decision in this regard will have to be taken by the three allies who constitute the government.
The Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in Maharashtra comprising of Shiv Sena, the National Congress Party and the Congress has been facing a political storm ever since Eknath Shinde claimed the support of almost two-thirds of Sena's MLAs in the legislature, the figure required to form a government without anti-defection.
Three more Shiv Sena MLAs reached Guwahati in Assam to join the rebel camp led by cabinet minister Eknath Shinde on Thursday.
Deepak Kesakar (MLA from Sawantwadi), Mangesh Kudalkar (Chembur) and Sada Sarvankar (Dadar) took a morning flight from Mumbai to Guwahati, a close associate of Shinde said.
On Wednesday evening, four MLAs, including Maharashtra minister Gulabrao Patil, had flown to Guwahati. Shinde will consult the MLAs with him and then decide when to return to Mumbai, his associate said.
With this Shinde has managed to reach the two-third mark required for not being penalised under the anti-defection law.
He had given a letter to the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly's deputy speaker, signed by 35 Sena MLAs, replacing Sunil Prabhu with Bharat Gogavale as the chief whip of the Shiv Sena legislature party.
Shinde has maintained that while the NCP and the Congress were growing stronger in the MVA alliance, the Shiv Sena, which heads the governing bloc, and its workers were getting systematically weakened.
CM vacates official residence
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Wednesday night vacated his official residence, hours after reaching out to Shiv Sena dissidents with an emotional appeal and offering to quit, even as rebel leader Shinde remained defiant and insisted the party should walk out of the "unnatural" ruling alliance MVA, and claimed the support of "enough number" of MLAs.
The CM had moved out of 'Varsha', his official residence in south Mumbai, and shifted to Matoshree, the Thackeray family's private bungalow in suburban Bandra, amid high drama as the Shiv Sena asserted he will not resign in the wake of rebellion by Shinde, who is camping with rebel MLAs in Guwahati.
The numbers game
The Shiv Sena, which heads the MVA government, has 55 MLAs, followed by allies NCP (53) and the Congress (44) in the 288-member Maharashtra assembly where the current simple majority mark is 144. The BJP has 106 seats in the assembly and independents hold 13 seats.
The Shinde camp now has 37 out of 55 Sena MLAs on its side which is number required to split the party without facing anti-defection law.
The anti-defection law provides for the disqualification of MLAs who quit party voluntarily after being elected under its ticket. Independent MLAs are also prohibited from joining any party after winning the election under this law. However, the law is not applicable if the number of MLAs who leave the party constitute two-thirds of the party's strength in the legislature.
(With PTI inputs.)