Amid a rebellion within the Shiv Sena that has jeopardised the stability of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in the state, senior Sena leaders on Tuesday, 21 June, held talks with rebel leader Eknath Shinde and other MLAs at the Le Meridien Hotel in Surat in a bid to pacify them.
Ahead of the visit by Sena leaders Milind Narvekar and Ravindra Phatak, the party removed Shinde as the legislative party leader.
While reports of being 'sidelined' in the party is being cited as one of the major reasons behind the rebellion by Shinde, his principal demand is the party's reunion with its former ally Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the state, sources told The Quint. Shinde has reportedly conveyed the same to Thackeray over the phone, sources say.
In light of these political developments, the Maharashtra cabinet is scheduled to meet at 1 pm on Wednesday, 22 June, ANI reported.
The Uddhav Thackeray-led government appears to be on shaky grounds with at least 20 Shiv Sena MLAs huddling at the Surat hotel and at least 10 more MLAs being incommunicado.
To prevent further poaching, MLAs belonging to Sena were shifted to St Regis in Mumbai's Worli later in the day.
A meet called by Thackeray with top party leaders and MLAs at the CM's official residence in Mumbai earlier on Tuesday was skipped by all rebel MLAs. Meanwhile, NCP supremo Sharad Pawar addressed the media in Delhi to deny any 'threat' to the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in the state.
Shinde, who is believed to have had differences with the Sena leadership for a while, took to Twitter to say: "We are true Shiv Sainiks and followers of Bal Thackeray. He taught us lessons of Hindutva. The ideology of Bal Thackeray and the teachings of Dharmveer Anand Dighe have never taught us to cheat our way to power."
'Sena's Internal Matter, No Need To Restructure MVA Govt': Pawar
Addressing the media, NCP supremo Sharad Pawar said that the rebellion led by Shinde is Shiv Sena's "internal matter."
"We are sure that there is no need to make any changes in the MVA government for that," he told reporters in Delhi on Tuesday.
"Once Uddhav Thackeray finishes his internal discussions with the party members, I will speak to him. This is Shiv Sena's internal matter and they will be able to resolve it," he added.
Addressing reporters, he said that whatever has happened now is the third incident, adding that there were two attempts before.
"Even before the Uddhav Thackeray government was formed, our people were taken to Haryana. But they returned and the government was formed. The government have been functioning well for the past three years," he said.
'Shinde Knows Why We Parted with the BJP': Sanjay Raut
Speaking to news agency ANI, Shiv Sena MP and national spokesperson Sanjay Raut said that Shinde has been a true party worker and knows why the Sena parted ways with the BJP.
"Talks were held with Eknath Shinde. He is our old friend. Everyone knows why we left the BJP and Eknath Shinde is also a witness to that," he said.
He further said that Narvekar and Phatak will convey Shinde's side to Thackeray after returning to Mumbai.
Did Eknath Shinde Reach Out to the BJP?
Addressing the media, Maharashtra BJP President Chandrakant Patil said that Shinde has not reached out to the party to stake claim to the government or vice versa.
"There's no proposal regarding government formation neither from the BJP nor from Eknath Shinde but anything can happen in politics at any time," Patil said.
"As per our info, Eknath Shinde and 35 MLAs have gone to Surat. This means technically, the state government has lost majority," he added.
When quizzed earlier on Tuesday about Fadnavis flying to Delhi, Patil said that the former CM was traveling to apprise the party leadership of the MLC polls.
"Fadnavis has gone to distribute sweets among our party leaders in Delhi," he said, as quoted by ANI.
Earlier on Tuesday, Senior Maharashtra Congress leaders also met at party leader Balasaheb Thorat's official residence in Mumbai to discuss the ongoing turmoil.
MLC Polls Debacle: What Unfolded During and After
Following the defeat of the MVA in the MLC polls on Monday, Shinde and his supporters skipped the meeting that was held later in the evening at 'Varsha,' the chief minister's official residence in Mumbai and were reported to be a "unreachable" ever since.
The BJP managed to make all its five candidates – Pravin Darekar, Ram Shinde, Shrikant Bharatiya, Uma Khapre, and Prasad Lad – sail through the MLC polls.
Two candidates each of the Shiv Sena and the NCP won, while the Congress managed to bag just one seat.
The MVA's Dalit face Chandrakant Handore bore the brunt of cross-voting in the polls by independent candidates and at least three MLAs each of the Shiv Sena and the Congress.
The contest was for 10 seats, which came days after the Rajya Sabha polls in which the Sena-led coalition suffered a defeat.
How the Numbers Stack Up for the MVA & the BJP
The MVA government has 169 members in the Maharashtra Assembly, 25 above the majority mark of 144. The BJP has 106 MLAs, 38 less than required to form the government.
Following the 2019 elections, the Sena (56 MLAs), the Congress (44 MLAs), and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) (53 MLAs) had joined hands to come to power in the state after the Sena broke the pre-poll alliance with the BJP.