With a Damocles’ sword hanging over Shiv Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray’s legacy even as more MLAs appeared likely to go with rebel leader Eknath Shinde, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, in an emotional address on Wednesday, asserted his party had not departed from his father’s ideology and said, “My resignation letter is ready.”
He challenged critics to come and ask him to step down, he could do so immediately. Thackeray said, “We breathe Hindutva.”
Uddhav Thackeray, who has tested positive for Covid, said in a Facebook address this evening, “If my own people don’t want me as Chief Minister, he should walk up to me and say so… I’m ready to resign… I am Balasaheb’s son, I am not after a post.”
Almost admitting that his party — and not just his government — is facing an existential crisis, Thackeray said, “I’m willing to step down, but can you promise me that the next chief minister will be from Shiv Sena?” This was a tacit challenge to Eknath Shinde, who has been projecting his faction as the real Shiv Sena.
Thackeray’s address was in the wake of the letter sent by the rebels to the Governor and Deputy Speaker in the State Assembly. The letter by 34 rebel MLAs, including four Independents, declares Shinde their leader.
Meanwhile, Shinde maintained that he had the support of 46 MLAs and this is nine more than the 37 required to escape the anti-defection laws. According to sources, an online meet is likely to be held on Thursday between the Governor and Shinde.
Simultaneously, all eyes were focused on a meeting between NCP supremo Sharad Pawar and Udhhav Thackeray at the latter’s residence on Wednesday evening.
Besides naming Shinde the leader of the Shiv Sena Legislature Party, the rebel faction also adopted a resolution, stating that there is “enormous discontent” among the party cadre over the alliance with ideologically opposed Congress and Sharad Pawar’s NCP.
The resolution also spoke of “great dissatisfaction” over corruption in the government, corruption by ministers like Nawab Malik and former minister Anil Deshmukh and administrative issues.
The Sena has 55 MLAs, of whom 40 are learnt to be with Eknath Shinde. If they resign, the Sena’s number comes down to 15. To make his claim that he heads the real Sena official, Shinde has to approach the Election Commission, which will adjudicate the dispute.
Shinde, who has consistently evoked the legacy of Balasaheb Thackeray and his version of Hindutva since Tuesday, can split the party vertically if he actually has the support of more than 37 MLAs that he claims he has.
Amid the crisis, the Shiv Sena earlier in the day issued an ultimatum to its MLAs, saying inability to attend a 5 pm meet at Thackeray’s residence will invoke disqualification — an invite that was largely technical with most of its MLAs camping out in Guwahati. Thackeray’s emotional address was apparently a realization that he didn’t really have the numbers to win a floor test.
It is the Speaker and not the Sena who can actually disqualify any MLA. If MLAs skip the legislature party meet, the Sena can file a complaint to the Speaker and ask him to initiate disqualification proceedings under anti-defection law citing anti-party activities.
Maharashtra BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis, meanwhile, held a meeting with his party leaders to discuss the nitty-gritty to stake claim to form the government, sources said. To displace Thackeray, the BJP, which has 106 MLAs, needs another 37 — a gap that can be covered by Shinde’s faction.
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