New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party was trying to pull down the government in Maharashtra, veteran leader and state coalition partner Sharad Pawar said Tuesday as questions grew over the state government’s stability following an apparent rebellion in the Shiv Sena.
The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Pawar said defiant leader Eknath Shinde – Maharashtra’s urban development minister and senior Shiv Sena man – never revealed his ambitions to become the state’s chief minister. He said Maharashtra chief minister and Shiv Sena head Uddhav Thackeray would handle the situation. “It is their internal matter. They will apprise us after assessing the situation,” Pawar said Tuesday.
The Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress are in a coalition, the Maha Vikas Agadhi (MVA), to rule Maharashtra.
MVA suffered a setback Monday when rival BJP, which has 106 MLAs in the assembly, pooled in a total of 134 votes for its five candidates in the legislative council elections, with the help of independent members, smaller parties, as well as MVA cross-voters.
MVA partner Congress failed to get one of its nominated candidates, Chandrakant Handore, a Dalit face, elected.
On 10 June, the BJP had trumped the MVA by winning three Rajya Sabha seats.
Eknath Shinde — apparently upset with the Uddhav Thackeray leadership – went incommunicado after Monday’s elections and is reportedly at a Surat hotel in BJP-ruled Gujarat. Sources claimed 21 other MLAs were with him.
The Shiv Sena removed Shinde as legislative party leader on Tuesday, and is likely to appoint Sewri MLA Ajay Chaudhary in his post.
Shinde later put out a tweet in the afternoon saying: “We are Balasaheb’s (Thackeray) staunch Shiv Sainiks. Balasaheb has taught us Hindutva. We have never and will never cheat for power on Balasaheb’s thoughts and Anand Dighe Saheb’s (popular party leader who died in 2001) teachings.”
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut on Tuesday echoed Sharad pawar when he said there was a conspiracy to topple the Uddhav Thackeray government in the “same pattern as in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan”. “Shiv Sena is a party of loyalists. We won’t let that happen,” he said.
Meanwhile, the BJP was “observing the turn of events,” state party chief Chandrakant Patil said Tuesday, adding, “It’s a little premature to say that this will lead to any changes. It’s a handle-with-care situation. We have to watch it keenly.”
Patil blamed Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut for the rebellion. “Problems have cropped up in their party due to the instigating statements of Raut. People won’t tolerate that. Eknath Shinde’s rebellion is an example. Sanjay Raut should speak politely. He doesn’t need to speak harshly on every matter,” the BJP leader said.
He also said Raut had “written the script of this rebellion”.
State Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan said it was a matter of concern that the party’s numbers had gone down in the legislative council elections. “But let’s not go into ifs and buts,” he said when asked if the state government would fall.
The Congress has appointed veteran leader Kamal Nath as the party’s observer to Maharashtra in the wake “of recent political developments in the state”.