Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray has called an urgent meeting of ruling Shiv Sena leaders and legislators amid reports that minister Eknath Shinde was “out of reach” and believed to be in Gujarat’s Surat along with 11-12 lawmakers, people aware of the matter said on Tuesday.
The Sena apparently lost touch with Shinde, a mass leader from Thane, hours after the legislative council election concluded on Monday. Shiv Sena’s two candidates got 52 votes though the party was expecting 64, which included 55 of its own and those of independents and smaller parties. At least 12 of the 64 lawmakers were believed to have cross-voted.
The ruling Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition partners Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), and Congress got 169 votes in the 2019 trust vote in the state assembly. On Monday, the three parties managed 150 votes in the council polls. MVA has 169 members in the state’s 288-member House while the BJP has 113.
The Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won all five council seats it contested in a setback to the ruling coalition. Two candidates each of Shiv Sena and NCP won while Congress managed to bag just one seat due to cross-voting. BJP fielded five candidates while the Sena, the NCP, and the Congress two each for the 10 council seats.
The BJP had enough numbers to get four nominees elected easily. Its fifth candidate Prasad Lad, too, made it to the Upper House of the state legislature after securing support from lawmakers outside his party’s pool.
Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut cancelled his Delhi visit ahead of the meeting at Thackeray’s residence even as there was no official response from the party over the evolving political situation.
BJP leader Sudhir Mungantiwar denied Shinde was in his party’s touch. “…we have nothing to do with him being not reachable to his party leadership. We definitely are watching the situation very closely. We will take the required steps whenever it will be required in the interest of Maharashtra. This was bound to happen one day as Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray betrayed the people’s mandate given in October 2019 (assembly polls). We had been warning them about the discontent among the people over such betrayal, but they did not pay heed to it.”
Shiv Sena ended its decades-long alliance with the BJP and formed the government with NCP and Congress in 2019.
Sena leaders, who did not want to be named, said they are trying to figure out how many lawmakers were with Shinde. Those out of touch and believed to be with Shinde included Sanjay Rathod, Sanjay Shirsat, Sanjay Raimulkar, Sanjay Gaikwad, Mahendra Dalvi, Bharat Gogavale, Mahendra Thorve and Balaji Kinikar.
Pratap Sarnaik, the Sena lawmker from Ovala-Majiwada in Thane, was also unavailable though his son, Purvesh, said his father was with the Sena.
The BJP earlier this month managed to win a third Rajya Sabha seat from Maharashtra despite lacking numbers in the assembly.