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After offering to resign, Uddhav moves out of official residence

After offering to resign, Uddhav moves out of official residence

Mumbai: Hours after vowing to resign from the Chief Minister's post if any of the rebel MLAs asks him to do so, Uddhav Thackeray on Wednesday left the CM's official residence 'Varsha' for his family's Matoshri bungalow. Amid the escalating political crisis in Maharashtra triggered by Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde's rebellion, Uddhav, breaking his silence over the revolt led by Shinde, a Cabinet minister and Sena strongman from Thane, said he was ready to step down if the rebel leader and MLAs supporting him, all camping in Guwahati in the BJP-ruled Assam, declare that they don't want him to continue as CM.

In an 18-minute live webcast which was delayed by 30 minutes, Thackeray, who tested positive for Covid earlier in the day, made an emotional appeal to the rebels as well as common Shiv Sainiks and admitted to being inexperienced and clarified that a spine surgery late last year kept him away from meeting people.

He said: "I will submit my resignation letter if they come and ask for it. If any MLA wants me to not continue as the CM, I am ready to take all my belongings from Varsha Bungalow (official residence of the CM) to Matoshri".

Shiv Sena leaders like Neelam Gorhe and Chandrakant Khaire were present at Varsha when Thackeray was leaving the official residence.

Party workers raised slogans and showered petals on the CM as he left his official house along with his family members at around 9.50 pm. Earlier, bags containing his personal belongings were seen being loaded in cars.

Thackeray said he was shocked at the ongoing political developments in the state, which started on Monday night when Shinde (58) raised a banner of revolt and landed in a hotel in Surat, around 280km from Mumbai, with a bunch of disgruntled MLAs.

''If my own people do not want me, I don't want to stick to power. I am ready with my resignation letter even if one rebel comes and tells me face to face that he doesn't want me as chief minister. I am also ready to quit as Shiv Sena president if Shiv Sainiks tell me so. I face challenges head-on and never turn my back on them,'' he said.

Thackeray said he does not run away from responsibilities and reiterated his commitment to Hindutva. "I am a man who does any task assigned to me with full determination. These days there is a talk about the Shiv Sena not being the party of (founder) Balasaheb Thackeray and giving up Hindutva,'' he said.

The CM said rebels were seeking to appropriate the Hindutva plank and raising a question mark on the Shiv Sena's commitment to the ideology.

''Hindutva is Shiv Sena's breath. I was the first CM to speak about Hindutva in the Legislative Assembly," Thackeray said.

Attacking Shinde without naming him, the CM said all Sena leaders who have become ministers since 2014 (when the party was a constituent of the BJP-led government) owe their success to the organisation after the death of Bal Thackeray. Shinde was a member of the Devendra Fadnavis Cabinet (2014-19).

"Balasaheb died in 2012. We contested the assembly elections on our own in 2014 and won 63 seats (Sena later joined the BJP government)," he said.

Thackeray said some rebel MLAs have told the party they want to come back from Guwahati, where they have moved from Surat, and alleged some of the legislators have been coerced or intimidated.

With Shinde, who has claimed the support of 46 MLAs, showing no signs of backing down from his rebellion, party MP Sanjay Raut said the ongoing political developments in Maharashtra could lead to the dissolution of the state Assembly.

"The political developments in Maharashtra are headed towards the dissolution of the state Assembly," tweeted Raut, a close aide of Thackeray.

Amid speculations over the actual number of Shiv Sena MLAs joining the Eknath Shinde camp, the state Urban Development and Public Works Minister in a tweet said that to ensure the survival of Shiv Sena and its Sainiks, it is necessary to step out of the "unnatural alliance" with the Congress and NCP).

"In the last two years under the MVA government, only the coalition partners benefitted while the Shiv Sainiks were left frustrated. While our allies gained strength the Shiv Sena and Sainiks were deliberately weakened. For ensuring the survival of the party and Sainiks, it is necessary to step out of this unnatural alliance. It is time to take a decision for the greater good of Maharashtra," he wrote.

NCP president Sharad Pawar called on the Maharashtra Chief Minister on Wednesday evening. He was accompanied by his daughter and NCP MP Supriya Sule and party minister Jitendra Awhad.

Meanwhile, the 34 Shiv Sena MLAs, who are part of the breakaway faction, passed a resolution appointing Shinde as the leader of the Shiv Sena Legislature party. In the resolution, they mentioned that "there is enormous discontent amongst the cadre of the party viz. Shiv Sena for forming the government with NCP and Indian National Congress who are ideologically opposed to our party".

The resolution passed by the rebel camp led by Shinde has named Sena MLA Bharat Gogawale as the new chief whip of the party and removed incumbent Sunil Prabhu from the post.

However, Raut asserted Thackeray will not resign following the rebellion by a section of party MLAs, and maintained the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) will prove its majority in the Assembly if required. The NCP and the Congress are also part of the MVA.

Earlier in the day, Prabu had issued a letter asking all the MLAs of Shiv Sena, including the rebels accompanying Shinde, to attend a legislature party meeting in Mumbai at 5 pm or face action under the anti-defection law.

The letter issued by the Shinde camp stated that the Sena leadership's decision to sever ties with BJP after the 2019 Maharashtra polls had a "negative" impact on the party cadres and voters. Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena has 55 MLAs in the 288-member Assembly.

As per the provisions of the anti-defection law, a merger requires the consent of two-thirds of the members of a legislative party who have consented to merge with another political party.

Shinde will have to ensure the support of 37 MLAs (two-thirds of 55 MLAs) to avoid disqualification.

The letter also alleged that Sena's core ideology of Hindutva and protecting the rights of the "Marathi manoos" were compromised upon while forming the MVA government with "ideologically opposite" NCP and Congress.

The Shinde-led faction described the Maha Vikash Aghadi as a "corrupt government".

The letter alleged "enormous discontent" amongst the cadres of the Shiv Sena for forming a government with NCP and the Indian National Congress (in November 2019), saying they are ideologically opposed to Sena.

Meanwhile, another chartered plane with four MLAs from Maharashtra arrived here on Wednesday to join the rebel Shiv Sena legislators who reached the city earlier in the day, sources said.

The four MLAs — Chandrakant Patil, Yogesh Kadam, Manjula Gavit and Gulabrao Patil — arrived in the evening from Surat in Gujarat like the legislators who came here along with Shinde in the morning.

The four MLAs arrived in Surat in the afternoon and went straight to the airport following a brief stay at a hotel.

Four more Maharashtra MLAs arrived in Guwahati in a chartered flight, the sources said. They were taken to a city hotel where the other MLAs are camping. While Gavit and Chandrakant Patil are Independent MLAs, Kadam and Gulabrao Patil are Shiv Sena legislators.

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