In another jolt to the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena faction, 12 party MPs are in touch with Maharashtra CM Eknath Shinde and are likely to switch sides to his camp. Sources said all the 12 MPs are expected to fly to Delhi tonight and will hold a press conference about their probable switch tomorrow.
Shinde himself will leave for Delhi today, where he would meet senior BJP leaders. It will be Shinde’s second visit to Delhi since assuming the office as Maharashtra CM on June 30. Shinde and deputy chief minister Devendra Fadanvis had visited New Delhi on July 8 and 9 and had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP national president JP Nadda.
The Shiv Sena has 18 MPs in the Lok Sabha.
As per sources, the 12 MPs in touch with Shinde are — Dhairyasheel Sambhajirao Mane, Sadashiv Lokhande, Hemant Godse, Hemant Patil, Rajendra Gavit, Sanjay Mandlik, Shrikant Shinde, Shrirang Barne, Rahul Shewale, Prataprao Ganpatrao Jadhav, Krupal Tumane, Bhavna Gawli.
The buzz around these 12 Sena MPs joining the Shinde camp began after Union minister and BJP leader Raosaheb Danve had last week claimed that 12 MPs of the Uddhav camp were in touch with te Eknath Shinde faction and are ready to cross over. Danve had also said the Shinde faction is the true Shiv Sena as he has the support of two-thirds of total (55) MLAs.
Reacting to the development, Sena MP Sanjay Raut, however, dismissed it saying, “This is comedy express season 2. In the end, Shiv Sena is a party of late Balasaheb Thackeray. The breakaway faction does not have any official recognition.”
Meanwhile, several Shinde faction MPs are also set to petition Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla to recognise them as a separate group. A Shiv Sena Lok Sabha member claimed that at least 12 of the 18 Shiv Sena members will meet Birla to submit a formal letter to recognise it as a separate group.
“We attended an online meeting held by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde today. We have decided to form a separate group under the leadership of Rahul Shewale (an MP from Mumbai South Central). He will be our group leader,” a Shiv Sena MP said.
Uddhav expels Sena leaders
Uddhav Thackeray on Monday, meanwhile, expelled two senior leaders and ex-ministers for alleged anti-party activities. The expelled leaders are former state minister Ramdas Kadam and former Union minister Anandrao Adsul, who have been accused of indulging in anti-party activities as the ground for their expulsion.
Earlier on Monday, Kadam, whose MLA son Yogesh Kadam had joined the Shinde camp last month, had tendered his resignation as the deputy leader of Shiv Sena. In his resignation letter, he said that after the demise of Balasaheb Thackeray, the post of deputy leader had lost value and also highlighted how he and his son were harassed by the party leadership.
Supreme Court is, meanwhile, scheduled to hear on July 20 a batch of pleas pertaining to the Uddhav and Shinde camps.
A bench comprising Chief Justice N V Ramana and Justices Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli, which was urged by senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the Uddhav Thackeray faction, that the matters required urgent listing and hearing, has now fixed as many as five petitions for hearing on Wednesday.
The CJI-led bench, on July 11, had granted interim relief to the Uddhav Thackeray faction MLAs by asking Maharashtra Assembly Speaker Rahul Narwekar not to proceed with the plea seeking their disqualification as sought by the Shinde group on the ground of defying party whip during the trust vote and the election of the speaker.
The top court seized of five petitions as on date and the first one was filed by the Shinde faction during the summer vacation when some rebel Sena MLAs moved before it challenging the disqualification proceedings initiated by the deputy speaker. On June 27, the vacation bench had extended the time for the rebel MLAs to file written responses to the deputy speaker’s disqualification notice till July 12.
(With agency inputs)