Rebel minister Eknath Shinde will come back to the party fold, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said today as the government he leads stands deep in crisis.
Mr Shinde is camping out in BJP-ruled Gujarat with 21 MLAs, having moved out late last evening after he was pulled up by Mr Thackeray over cross-voting in the Rajya Sabha and the legislative assembly elections that hugely benefited the BJP.
“Talks with Eknath Shinde are on. I spoke to him. He will return. NCP is also with us,” sources quoted Mr Thackeray as saying at a meeting of Sena leaders.
Uddhav Thackeray had asked him to reconsider and return to the fold, sources said. Mr Shinde claimed that so far, he has not taken any decision or signed any document, and that he has taken this step for the betterment of the party.
Mr Shinde’s demand is that the Sena restore its alliance with the BJP and rule the state.
“Some are saying that we should go with BJP. But how do we do that. We were with them and have suffered. Why should we go with them,” the Sena chief reportedly told party leaders.
All MLAs will soon be with us, the Chief Minister underscored, sending a message of unity, sources said. He stressed that the Congress and NCP are with the party.
As the Sena and the Congress blamed the BJP for engineering the crisis and claiming much money changed hands, Mr Shinde has pitched his move as an ideological decision.
“Balasaheb has taught us Hindutva. We have never and will never cheat for power regarding Balasaheb’s thoughts and Dharmaveer Anand Dighe Saheb’s teachings,” read a rough translation of his Marathi tweet before he flew to BJP-ruled Gujarat last night.
Removed today as the Chief Whip, an important party post, Mr Shinde has edited his Twitter bio, removing a reference to the Shiv Sena.
Mr Shinde needs 37 MLAs to claim a two-third majority to split the Shiv Sena and avoid any action under the anti-defection law. Sources close to him claim he is just short of the number.
The Sena has 55 MLAs, of which at least 21 are with Mr Shinde. Sources close to Mr Shinde claim he has more MLAs supporting him.
One of the most powerful leaders after the Thackerays in the Shiv Sena, Mr Shinde has also been upset over the prominence given to Sanjay Raut.
A key aide of Thackerays, it was Mr Raut who led the PR campaign today for the Sena, describing Mr Shinde as “a Sena loyalist” and asserting that the crisis will be defused.
If the Sena splits, the Maharashtra government will fall.