Uddhav Thackeray, the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, asserted today that he would “not fight for the chair” and his party Shiv Sena “will never give up Hindutva” in his first address since a rebel crisis exploded in his party two days ago.
“I will resign if even one MLA objects to me as Chief Minister. I am keeping my resignation letter ready. You tell me you want me to resign,” Uddhav Thackeray said.
Mr Thackeray spoke shortly after 30 Shiv Sena MLAs wrote to the Governor backing rebel Eknath Shinde as their leader.
“I am getting calls from MLAs who have gone with Eknath Shinde; they are claiming that they were forcibly taken away,” Mr Thackeray said.
The rebel MLAs, who are at a hotel in Guwahati in BJP-ruled Assam, wrote to Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari that Eknath Shinde is still the legislative party leader of the Shiv Sena a day after Uddhav Thackeray sacked him for his act of rebellion.
Uddhav Thackeray’s grip on the party founded by his father Bal Thackeray appeared to loosen further as Eknath Shinde, calling the shots, overruled his “5 pm meeting” ultimatum to MLAs.
The meeting is “illegal” as it was called by Sunil Prabhu, who is no longer the Chief Whip of the party, the rebel MLAs insisted.
The letter asserted that Bharat Gogavle from the rebel group has been appointed as Chief Whip and they are “still with Shiv Sena”, officially launching the big fight over which is the real Sena.
The rebels said the new appointment “canceled” Uddhav Thackeray’s nominee Sunil Prabhu as chief whip.
Earlier today, he had asked his party MLAs to attend a meeting at his home at that time and warned that a no-show would mean expulsion.
The 34 signatories to the letter include four independent MLAs.
This means Eknath Shinde has 30 Shiv Sena MLAs and needs seven more to split the party without risking disqualification under the anti-defection law.
This morning, Mr Shinde had told NDTV that he had the backing of 45 Sena MLAs.
Four more Sena MLAs took a flight to Guwahati this evening, escorted by Maharashtra BJP chief Chandrakant Patil.
Mr Shinde went MIA on the Shiv Sena on Monday night, as he flew to Surat in BJP-ruled Gujarat with 21 MLAs.
Hours after Uddhav Thackeray spoke to him on the phone and urged him to end his revolt, Mr Shinde and his group of MLAs flew to Assam, another BJP-ruled state, and checked into a five-star hotel in Guwahati.