Shiv Sena rebel MLA Deepak Kesarkar, who is also the spokesperson of the Eknath Shinde camp, on Thursday lashed out at party colleague Sanjay Raut over a tweet carrying an illustration showing how the own party leaders backstabbed Uddhav Thackeray. Notably, the Sena rebels have blamed Raut for his visceral statements for widening the gap between them and the party leadership.
Kesarkar, currently in Panaji, told reporters that removing party supremo Uddhav Thackeray from the Chief Minister's chair was never their intention, adding that they will talk to him if he walks out of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA).
The MVA came into existence after Shiv Sena snapped over two decades old ties with the BJP and sided with NCP and Congress soon after the declaration of the Assembly election results in November 2019. The BJP-Sena alliance had secured a comfortable majority in the 288-member House but Sena walked out of the alliance and formed the government with the support of NCP and Congress to keep the BJP at bay.
"Yesterday CM Uddhav Thackeray resigned. We didn’t indulge in any kind of celebration as removing him was not our intention. We are still in Shiv Sena and it is not our intention to hurt and disrespect Uddhav Thackeray," Kesarkar said.
"Eknath Shinde has left for Mumbai. He has said that whatever decision will be made, it will be for the development of the state... We have not backstabbed anyone, such statements given by Sanjay Raut are just to spread displeasure among people. We are not against the Thackeray family… We are ready to talk to Uddhav Ji if he breaks the alliance with MVA but he is still with them. We have not gone to SC against Thackeray. We still have respect for Thackeray Ji," he added.
Blaming Raut and NCP for the friction, Kesarkar said that their job 'is to make statements every day against the Centre and create bad blood between the Centre and the state'.
Responding to Raut's tweet, he said, "We didn't backstab... the mandate was for the BJP-Shiv Sena. It is like ulta chor kotwal ko dante." He added that Sanjay Raut is loyal to NCP.
'Fadnavis to decide oath-taking date'
When asked when the modalities of the government formation, he said, "Maharashtra BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis will decide the oath-taking date. It is the prerogative of the Governor to give him that date. Our negotiations have already started and we will form a government."
If there will be a swearing-in ceremony tomorrow, he said, "then we will go (to Mumbai) tomorrow."
Meanwhile, rebel Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde left Goa for Mumbai on Thursday afternoon amid tight police security. Sources said that Shinde and Fadnavis will meet Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari later in the day to stake the claim to form the next government.
"I am going to Mumbai to meet the Maharashtra Governor. All other MLAs are staying in Goa at present," Shinde told reporters before leaving for Mumbai.
The story of rebellion
Shinde had raised a banner of revolt a day after the MLC election result. He along with several MLAs moved to a Surat hotel and later shifted to Guwahati in BJP-ruled Assam. The rebels cited association with the NCP and Congress being the main reason for rebelling against the party. They demanded from Uddhav to exit an unnatural alliance and join the ranks again with the BJP. But the Sena's refusal escalated the political slugfest.
Finally, on Wednesday night, Uddhav Thackeray resigned as Chief Minister following a Supreme Court order that upheld the Governor's order for a floor test on June 30, leading to the collapse of the 31-month-long MVA government.
'Dissident leaders will regret'
Meanwhile, Raut said the rebels have chosen their way and there would be no hindrance from the party in the path of the dissidents to associate with the BJP. He said that the dissident leaders will regret their decision to part ways with the Shiv Sena, adding that his party will play the role of constructive opposition to the new government.
"You (rebel leaders) will regret this. Eknath Shinde (the leader of the rebel MLAs) was a staunch Shiv Sainik and worked for the party for many years. Be it (MLAs) Gulabrao Patil, Sandipan Bhumre and many (who are in the Shinde camp) who worked for the party and struggled for it, they have chosen their path," he said.
'170 MLAs with BJP'
In another related development, Maharashtra BJP leader Girish Mahajan has claimed that his party has the support of 170 MLAs, way above the 145 majority mark in the 288-member House that is necessary to form a government in the state.
"We have the support of 170 MLAs. We can comfortably face a floor test whenever we are asked to prove majority," he said.
The BJP's strength in the House is 106, and it claims to have the support of at least 13 legislators.