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Will take Hindutva cause forward while staying in Sena, says Shinde, claims support of 45 MLAs

Maharashtra Urban Development Minister Eknath Shinde, who is now in Guwahati with the other rebel Shiv Sena MLAs, says they are working on their ‘future strategy’.

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Mumbai: Claiming the support of 45-46 of 55 party MLAs, rebel Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde has said that he will take Bal Thackeray’s Hindutva ahead “while staying in the Sena”. This suggests Shinde’s intention to challenge Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray for the Sena founder’s political and ideological legacy, something that Uddhav’s estranged cousin Raj Thackeray had sought to do earlier, albeit unsuccessfully.

“We haven’t broken away from Shiv Sena nor will we ever. We are following Balasaheb Thackeray’s teachings of Hindutva. We will take Hindutva ahead by staying in Shiv Sena,” Shinde said in a telephonic interview with ThePrint from Guwahati, where rebel Sena leaders were shifted via chartered flight from Surat Tuesday evening. Shinde’s insistence on Hindutva is also seen as his attempt to push his party to go with the BJP and abandon its current allies — the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress.

He said the same to Uddhav when his party colleague Milind Narvekar met him in Surat Tuesday and put him on the line with the Sena chief. 

Shinde also told ThePrint that he and the other MLAs are working on a “future strategy”. “Whether we will go to the governor or not, you will come to know in the coming days,” he added.

We have raised the issue of Hindutva and that is our main demand that the party should follow, he further said. “Our stand is clear. We have never compromised for power and will not do so. But in the state, there are inquiries on certain leaders, ministers. Some are even in jail. All this is not good for the state and its progress.”

Also Read: Who’s Eknath Shinde? Former auto driver threatening to topple MVA, become ‘Maharashtra’s Scindia’

From one BJP-ruled state to another

Shinde and the other Sena MLAs were shifted overnight from Surat to Guwahati, and from Guwahati International Airport, three buses ferried them to another hotel.

Since Guwahati is far from Mumbai, it may now be difficult for Uddhav or his aides to reach out to the MLAs. Not many MLAs turned up for a noon meeting called by the CM Tuesday either.

On Tuesday evening, three MLAs — Dada Bhuse, Sanjay Rathod, Santosh Bangar — who are said to be close to Shinde, were taken from a luxury hotel in Mumbai to the CM’s residence, Varsha.

These MLAs did not go with Shinde, but also did not attend the afternoon meeting. All MLAs who were present at the meeting at the CM’s bungalow were later at night taken to another Mumbai hotel.

Cabinet Minister and Uddhav Thackeray’s son Aaditya himself drove one of those MLAs to the hotel.

A Sena MLA who attended the meeting at Varsha told ThePrint that Uddhav told them some legislators wanted the party to go with the BJP. Speaking at the meeting, the CM asked why they should do so when they had to suffer because of the BJP, the MLA added.

He further said that Uddhav told them the NCP and Congress are with him, and he was speaking to Shinde and trying to convince him.

Sources said the Maharashtra CM has also called a cabinet meeting Wednesday in an attempt to project normalcy, but three cabinet ministers (two Sena and one independent) would not be attending.

Allies in wait-and-watch mode

As far as allies are concerned, NCP chief Sharad Pawar held a press conference Tuesday but refrained from directly commenting on the situation. He said it was an internal matter of the Shiv Sena, that they are in wait-and-watch mode and would let Uddhav decide. 

Pawar, who is in Mumbai, met his party leaders and MLAs late Tuesday evening, but did not meet the CM, sources told ThePrint.

The Congress too is believed to be in wait-and-watch mode while trying to keep its flock together. Senior party leader Kamal Nath has been deputed as observer of the developing situation while H.K. Patil, the in-charge of Maharashtra Congress, is holding one-on-one meetings with his MLAs.

(Edited by Gitanjali Das)

Also Read: Shiv Sena sacks rebel leader Eknath Shinde, Sharad Pawar says no idea he wanted to be CM


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