Sena open to consider leaving MVA if rebels return, hold talks with CM: Raut
Mumbai: The Shiv Sena is open to consider quitting Maharashtra's ruling MVA alliance if the rebel MLAs camping in Assam return to Mumbai within 24 hours and discuss their grievances with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, party MP Sanjay Raut said on Thursday, indicating a big shift in stand that surprised ally Congress, while the NCP said it wants the coalition government to complete its term.
Reaching out to rebel MLAs, Raut, who is the Shiv Sena's chief spokesperson, said the party's "doors are open" to them, and all issues raised by them can be resolved through talks.
As political crisis in the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, triggered by Shiv Sena cabinet minister Eknath Shinde's revolt three days ago, raged three more MLAs of the party left for Guwahati in the BJP-ruled Assam to join the rebel camp.
A day after Thackeray made an emotional appeal to rebel MLAs of his party and offered to resign in a bid to placate them, his trusted aide Raut indicated the Shiv Sena is ready to consider leaving the MVA headed by it, a demand put forward by Shinde who has dubbed the three-party bloc as an "unnatural" alliance.
Shinde is currently camping with 37 rebel MLAs of the Sena and nine independents in Guwahati. The NCP and Congress also share power in the Uddhav Thackeray-led dispensation.
"You say you are real Shiv Sainiks and will not quit the party. We are ready to consider your demand provided you come back to Mumbai within 24 hours and discuss the issue with CM Uddhav Thackeray. Your demand will be considered positively. Don't write letters on Twitter and WhatsApp," Raut, who is the party's chief spokesperson, told reporters here.
"The rebels who are out of Mumbai have raised the issue of Hindutva. If all these MLAs feel that Shiv Sena should walk out of the MVA, show guts to come back to Mumbai. You say you have issues only with the government and also say that you are true Shiv Sainiks...Your demand will be considered. But come and talk with Uddhav Thackeray," he added.
In a tweet in Marathi later, Raut said, 'Why wander aimlessly. The doors are open and issues can be resolved amicably through talks. Let's take a decision with self-respect instead of accepting slavery." Reacting to Raut's comments on his party considering quitting the MVA, Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan said he did not think Chief Minister Thackeray, who also heads the Shiv Sena, would do an "about-turn" and agree to the rebel MLAs' demand that the party pull out of the ruling alliance.
"Does Sena want to join hands with the BJP in Maharashtra? The motives of Shiv Sena are not yet clear," Chavan, a former chief minister, told reporters.
"I have not heard Uddhav Thackeray sounding like this in his Wednesday evening's public address. I would be surprised if Uddhav Thackeray does such an about-turn in less than 24 hours. I don't think that Thackeray would do that," he said.
It was not even clear whether Raut was articulating the Sena's official stand," Chavan added.
"There is not even clarity about which faction of the Shiv Sena should be considered as authentic face of the party (in view of the rebellion)," the Congress leader added.
State NCP president Jayant Patil, meanwhile, said his party had not yet discussed Raut's comments.
"But we want this government to complete its full term as it has taken some good decisions," he added.
"Those who leave Sena lose the election later," Patil, a state minister, added.
On the rebel Sena MLAs' stand that they did not wish to be a part of the MVA because of the "corruption" of NCP and Congress ministers, Patil said the statements of individual legislators should not be treated as the Sena's official stand.
Praful Patel, another NCP leader, said party chief Sharad Pawar "formed the MVA and he still wishes that it remains intact." Three more Shiv Sena MLAs - Deepak Kesakar (MLA from Sawantwadi), Mangesh Kudalkar (Chembur) and Sada Sarvankar (Dadar) took a morning flight from Mumbai for Guwahati, a close associate of Shinde said.
On Wednesday evening, four MLAs, including Maharashtra minister Gulabrao Patil, had flown to Guwahati.
After reaching Guwahati, Shinde had claimed the support of 46 legislators, including some Independents. The rebel leader had given a letter to the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly's deputy speaker, signed by 35 Sena MLAs, replacing Sunil Prabhu with Bharat Gogavale as the chief whip of the Shiv Sena legislature party.
Deputy Speaker Narhari Zirwal said he has approved the appointment of Ajay Choudhary as the Shiv Sena's group leader in the House, replacing rebel legislator Shinde.
The Shiv Sena on Tuesday removed Shinde as the party's group leader in the Assembly, hours after he revolted and and travelled to Surat in Gujarat with some Shiv Sena MLAs, triggering a crisis in the ruling alliance.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Zirwal said, "I have received a letter from the Shiv Sena, informing me that it is appointing Ajay Choudhary as the party's leader in the Assembly and removing Shinde from the post with immediate effect." Shiv Sena MLA Kailas Patil, who had escaped from a car carrying rebel legislators to Surat on Monday night, claimed in Mumbai that some of those siding with Shinde might be wanting to return, but were forced to stay back.
Another Sena MLA Sanjay Shirsat has written a letter to the Chief Minister claiming Shinde took the step of going against the party leadership as party MLAs, who faced "humilitation" for the last two-and-a-half years, persuaded him to do so.
Shirsat, the MLA from Aurangabad (West) Assembly constituency, in the letter claimed despite the Shiv Sena heading the MVA and having its own chief minister, the coterie around Thackeray never allowed them access to 'Varsha', the CM's official residence.