Rebel Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde has told NDTV that more than 50 MLAs are backing him in his revolt against his boss Uddhav Thackeray. “Nearly 40 of them are from the Shiv Sena,” Mr Shinde, who is camping in BJP-ruled Assam, told NDTV in an exclusive interview.
“Those who have faith in our role will join us. We want to carry forward Balasaheb Thackeray’s ideology, those who like it will come,” Mr Shinde said, insisting the rebels have not left Balasaheb Thackeray’s Shiv Sena.
Mr Shinde, 58, also said that Shiv Sena’s move to file disqualification notices against the rebel MLAs was “illegal”. “What was done yesterday is illegal, they have no right. We are the people in the majority and numbers are important in a democracy. That is illegal, even they can not do such suspension,” he said.
Mr Shinde has reached the critical number of MLAs, 37, required to split the party in the assembly without falling foul of the anti-defection law. Till yesterday, 37 Shiv Sena MLAs and 9 Independents were with him.
Mr Shinde also added that there has been “no discussion” between the rebels and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, who is also the Shiv Sena chief.
Thirty-seven MLAs have written to the Governor and Deputy Speaker, naming Eknath Shinde the legislature party leader. The move came shortly after Team Uddav Thackeray filed disqualification applications for 12 rebels with the Deputy Speaker.
“Who are you trying to scare? We know your makeup and the law too! According to the 10th Schedule to the Constitution (Schedule) the whip is for assembly work, not for meeting. There are numerous Supreme Court decisions in this regard, “tweeted Eknath Shinde on Thursday.
Eknath Shinde has demanded the Sena break its “unnatural alliance” with the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party, or NCP, and restore its alliance with the BJP and rule the state.
“In the last 2.5 years, Shiv Sena has only suffered and other parties have benefited. Where other parties have got stronger, the Sena has only weakened.
“To save the party and the Shiv Sainiks, it is vital that the unnatural alliance be junked. It is important to make this decision in the interest of Maharashtra,” Mr Shinde tweeted on Day 2 of the crisis.
The BJP has denied the accusation of engineering an “Operation Lotus” in Maharashtra. A BJP minister of Assam, however, was seen in photographs of Eknath Shinde and the rebels at the Guwahati hotel where they are staying.
Mr Thackeray has said his “resignation letter is ready” and that “if Sena MLAs say it to me, I will quit.” Being power-hungry, he said, is not in his DNA. “I am the son of Balasaheb,” he reminded his party, underscoring the fact that his father abstained from taking any post in multiple governments that included his party.