India

Had BJP kept its promise, Uddhav Thackeray himself would have nominated Eknath Shinde as Maharashtra CM, says Sanjay Raut

The Sena MP claims that a section of rebel MLAs want to return; Maharashtra BJP chief denies knowledge of secret meeting between Eknath Shinde, Amit Shah and Devendra Fadnavis. 

The Sena MP claims that a section of rebel MLAs want to return; Maharashtra BJP chief denies knowledge of secret meeting between Eknath Shinde, Amit Shah and Devendra Fadnavis. 

As Maharashtra’s political turmoil triggered by internecine strife within the ruling Shiv Sena entered its sixth day on Sunday, Sena MP Sanjay Raut revealed that had the BJP kept its promise of sharing the Maharashtra Chief Minister’s post with his party for two-and-a-half years, then Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray himself would have put forward rebel Sena Minister Eknath Shinde’s name as the Chief Minister.

Mr. Raut, who had earlier said that the Shiv Sena’s doors were closed for Mr. Shinde and the rebel MLAs, also said that he was still in talks with a section of legislators holed up in Guwahati while hinting at the possibility that they would be taken into the Sena’s fold if they returned to Mumbai.

“I have just spoken with some rebel Sena MLAs. The Shiv Sena’s doors are still open for those who want to return,” Mr. Raut told mediapersons in Mumbai.

At the same time, he chastised the rebel camp for sitting in Guwahati and teaching Mr. Uddhav Thackeray and the Sena in Maharashtra about loyalty to party founder Bal Thackeray.

“Sitting in Guwahati, do not preach to us about loyalty to Balasaheb Thackeray. Uddhav Thackeray has made it clear that the rebels cannot use his father’s name. Why don’t you [rebels with Mr. Shinde] use your father’s name to start a new party? You claim you are Balasaheb’s staunch followers, but such ‘staunch followers’ do not stab the Sena in the back. We [Uddhav Thackeray-led Sena] have been restrained till now. But lakhs of Shiv Sainiks are waiting for our sign,” he said, warning the rebels not to mislead people by claiming to be the ‘real Shiv Sena’.

Earlier, Mr. Raut had tweeted that the rebels could not stay indefinitely in Guwahati and that they would soon have to come to Mumbai’s ‘Chowpatty’.

He accused the BJP of sponsoring hotel parties of rebel Sena MLAs who had joined Mr. Shinde at Guwahati’s Radisson Blu while floods ravaged the north-eastern State of Assam.

‘Resign and win elections’

Challenging the MLAs in the Shinde camp, Mr. Raut said: “If you have the guts, then resign and show the courage to win elections from your respective constituencies. Even when [Union Minister and BJP leader] Narayan Rane exited the Sena, he resigned and contested elections,” said Mr. Raut, expressing confidence that the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government would survive.

Remarking that the rebellion of Mr. Shinde and the 40 or so MLAs with him was “no political earthquake”, the Sena MP, in his column ‘Rokhthok’ in the party mouthpiece Saamna, said that the Sena had endured several such ‘earthquakes’ to emerge unscathed.

‘BJP will make 40 MLAs slaves’

Stating that Mr. Shinde would have stood a better chance of become Maharashtra’s Chief Minister had he remained in the party instead of revolting, Mr. Raut warned the rebel camp that the BJP was out to make ‘slaves’ of the 40 MLAs.

“Uddhav Thackeray became CM as he was urged by NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Congress president Sonia Gandhi to lead the newly-formed MVA government. Had the BJP kept its promise of letting a Shiv Sainik share the CM’s post for half the five-year term, then Mr. Thackeray himself would have put forward Mr. Shinde’s name. So, it is the BJP and Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis who have thwarted Mr. Shinde’s dream of becoming CM,” said Mr. Raut.

Pooh-poohing the BJP’s claims of innocence in the ongoing political drama, the Sena leader said that if the latter claimed not to have a hand in sparking the crisis, then what was the need of such elaborate arrangements to keep the Sena rebel faction lodged in BJP-ruled States.

“What kind of ‘democracy’ is this? You [BJP] are spiriting our MLAs from one State and one hotel to another? Under the name of ostensibly ‘saving democracy’ [from the MVA], untold sums of money are being spent on chartered planes, cars and posh hotels to ferry the rebel MLAs,” Mr. Raut said.

Observing that all those who revolted against the Sena — like Chhagan Bhujbal and Narayan Rane — saw their later political careers run into rough weather, Mr. Raut stressed that a split in the Sena’s Legislative party did not translate into a split in the Shiv Sena as a whole.

Meanwhile, responding to Mr. Raut, BJP Maharashtra president Chandrakant Patil denied having any knowledge of a ‘secret meeting’ between rebel Mr. Shinde, Home Minister Amit Shah and Mr. Fadnavis in Gujarat’s Vadodara.

“Nothing in Maharashtra’s political situation has transpired until now for the BJP to clarify its stance. While we are obviously monitoring the situation closely as befits a political party, we are going about our work in a routine manner instead of worrying whether the government is stable or unstable,” said Mr. Patil.


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