37 rebel Sena MLAs send letter to Deputy Speaker, declare Shinde as leader

Rebel Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde with other MLAs during a meeting, in Guwahati, Wednesday, June 22, 2022. (PTI Photo)

Mumbai: Putting an end to the uncertainty surrounding the number of MLAs with Maharashtra Minister Eknath Shinde, 37 rebel Shiv Sena MLAs sent a letter to Maharashtra Assembly's Deputy Speaker Narhari Zirwal, stating that Shinde will remain their group leader in legislature.

Earlier in the day, Zirwal had said that he had approved the appointment of Ajay Chaudhary as the group leader of the Shiv Sena legislature party, replacing senior minister Shinde who has rebelled against the Shiv Sena leadership.

Shinde on Thursday evening sent a letter to the deputy speaker, signed by 37 Sena MLAs who are currently staying with him in Guwahati.

It also informed that Sena MLA Bharat Gogawale has been appointed as chief whip of the legislature party in place of Sunil Prabhu.

Shinde, meanwhile, also hit back at those demanding action against MLAs in his faction for not attending a meeting called by Prabhu, claiming that a whip is applicable only for legislative events. Some Sena workers loyal to Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray earlier on Thursday demanded action against those who did not attend the 5 pm meeting called by the party on Wednesday.

Rebel Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde interacts with supporting MLAs at a hotel in Guwahati, Thursday, June 23, 2022. (PTI Photo)

Who are you trying to threaten? We know your gimmicks and also understand the law very well. As per the 10th schedule of the Constitution, the whip is applicable for legislative works and not for any meeting, Shinde tweeted.

We demand action against you instead because you do not have sufficient number (of MLAs) but still formed a group of 12 MLAs. We do not pay any heed to such threats, his tweet read.

'Ready to quit MVA if rebel MLAs return': Sanjay Raut

Meanwhile, party MP Sanjay Raut appeal to the rebel MLAs to return to the Sena fell on deaf ears.

“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,” Raut said on Thursday.

How the numbers play out

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 the 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 37 Sena MLAs, 9 independents and BJP support (106 MLAs), a new government could be formed with 152 MLAs.

(With PTI inputs.)

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