Mumbai: At least one in every three MLAs who rebelled against the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government with Eknath Shinde, now Maharashtra chief minister, has directly blamed Shiv Sena Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut either for being responsible for their departure, or for derailing reconciliation talks.
After returning to Mumbai and eventually their home constituencies, at least 13 of the 39 MLAs who supported Shinde have made public statements squarely blaming Raut, alleging that he was out to “finish the Shiv Sena”, and criticising him for supposedly slamming the rebels as “pigs and prostitutes”.
Addressing a press conference on his home turf in Aurangabad, Sanjay Shirsat, a rebel Shiv Sena MLA from the Shinde camp, said: “I was hurt by what Sanjay Raut said. He said: He gelele vaishya ahet (Those who have left are prostitutes). There were women with us too who were very hurt.”
Raut will drown the Sena, he claimed. “His target is to finish the party. These people are hurting the dreams that Shiv Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray had seen.”
On 22 June — a day after Maharashtra’s hotly-contested legislative council elections for 10 seats — a group of Shiv Sena MLAs under Shinde’s leadership broke away from the MVA government. The MVA comprises the Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), and the Congress.
The rebels first went to Surat, then Guwahati, and eventually to Goa before coming to Mumbai to form a government with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with Shinde as chief minister and former BJP CM Devendra Fadnavis as his deputy. The government passed its floor test on 4 July after the rebels returned to their home constituencies. Overall, 39 of the Shiv Sena’s 55 MLAs have joined Shinde.
Speaking to reporters Thursday, Raut said there’s no clarity among rebel MLAs about why they left.
“Initially they cited the reason of Hindutva. Then they alleged that the NCP was not giving them funds…Now they are blaming me. So, they should sit together and decide the reason first.”
Raut did not respond to ThePrint’s calls.
Also Read: What next for MVA as Uddhav govt falls? Struggle for survival, fresh strategy for BMC polls
‘Naradmuni, out to destroy Shiv Sena’
Before they returned, certain MLAs had indirectly targeted Raut without naming him, by alleging that a small coterie of leaders controlled the MLAs’ access to Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray.
Raut is said to be among the confidantes of the party leadership and was also the Shiv Sena’s emissary during talks for the formation of the MVA in 2019.
Deepak Kesarkar, who has been the spokesperson of the rebel Shinde camp ever since they broke away, had called Raut the “blue-eyed boy of the NCP” who is “out to finish the Shiv Sena” in an open letter.
Since coming back to Mumbai and returning to their constituencies between Tuesday and Thursday, the rebel MLAs have become more vocal in their criticism of Raut while trying to explain their move to their karyakartas (party workers), constituents, and the local media.
Shahaji Patil, a Shiv Sena rebel MLA from Solapur’s Sangola, called Raut “Naradmuni” — a sage in Indian mythology who’s known to be the carrier of news — while speaking to reporters. Gulabrao Patil, a Sena rebel MLA from rural Jalgaon, indirectly referred to Raut as “Shukracharya” — a sage and the guru of the asuras (demons) in Indian mythology.
Gulabrao, who was a cabinet minister in the Thackeray-led MVA government, told reporters: “We are not against Uddhav saheb, we are not against Aaditya saheb. We respect them. You know who the Shukracharya is, who has destroyed our party and we are trying to save it. There’s no point in talking about him. Why talk about rotten vegetables?”
Asked about Raut, Shambhuraj Desai, a rebel MLA from Patan in Satara, told a press conference: “Why should we give importance to Sanjay Raut, because of whom the party has reached this state and because of whom 40 MLAs stepped out of the Shiv Sena?”
‘Put a full stop to any reconciliation talks’
Sanjay Rathod, an MLA from Digras in Yavatmal, joined the rebel Shinde camp in Guwahati two days after they broke away from the MVA. Now back in his constituency after the floor test, Rathod blamed Raut for the failed talks between Shinde and Thackeray.
On 6 July, Rathod told his supporters that Uddhav Thackeray had been ready to hold talks with Eknath Shinde.
“Aaditya Thackeray was going to go to Surat, but Raut’s mediation failed,” he said, adding that matters took a turn for the worse when Raut started speaking in “extremely foul language” while referring to the rebels.
Sanjay Gaikwad, another rebel MLA, while speaking to reporters in his home constituency of Buldhana, said: “On the one hand, you say ‘come back’. On the other, you call us vaishyas, dukkar, kutra (prostitutes, pigs, dogs), talk about our fathers.”
“This Sanjay Raut had taken a supari (contract to kill) from the NCP to 100 per cent destroy the Shiv Sena (sic),” he said. “Because of [this] whatever reconciliation was to happen reached a full stop.”
Kishor Patil, a rebel MLA from Pachora in the Jalgaon district addressed a gathering of his supporters, following which he spoke to TV9 Marathi, saying Raut “rubbed salt on sore wounds”.
Similarly, Mahesh Shinde, a rebel MLA from Koregaon in Satara district, told reporters in his constituency, “What was the development under MVA? Every morning, Sanjay Raut would start his bhajan kirtan, irritating Maharashtra’s people.”
Shinde was referring to Raut’s almost daily morning press interactions.
“Sanjay Raut is a big leader of the Shiv Sena. If he had shown restraint after the MLAs left, the situation could have been brought under control. But the way he handled the situation, the way he insulted us, distressed us,” Shinde added.
(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)
Also Read: Thane’s Thackeray, Balasaheb’s ‘rival’ — who is Anand Dighe, Maharashtra CM Shinde’s mentor