Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray in a late-night open Zoom call with reporters and the public strongly condemned the way his party’s MLA, Eknath Shinde, and 21 other rebels sneaked out from Mumbai on Monday night, eventually to surface at a five-star hotel in Assam’s Guwahati, far from home. The number of rebel MLAs since the Monday night ‘escape’ has swelled to nearly 40.
Mr Thackeray said the Sena’s allies Nationalist Congress Party, or NCP, and the Congress are standing strong together, but what hurt him the most was the stab on the back by their own. “We were stabbed in the back by our own,” Mr Thackeray said, referring to how the Sena MLAs sneakily took a flight from Mumbai to Surat on Monday night.
The full gravity of the crisis was revealed the next night when the rebel MLAs were seen at Surat airport, preparing to leave for Guwahati in BJP-ruled Assam. They were seen escorted by Gujarat Police hurriedly. Once in Guwahati, they were escorted by the state police all the way to the hotel.
“NDTV has shown you what happened at the airport…They don’t have two-third numbers, so they will be disqualified. They are depending on the BJP,” Mr Thackeray said in the Zoom call on Friday night.
The rebels are still at the 196-room five-star hotel in Guwahati, fully booked for a week, suggesting the MLAs are for the long haul.
But the Maharashtra Deputy Speaker is likely to issue disqualification notices to 16 rebel MLAs including Mr Shinde, as sought by Team Thackeray, and the proceedings which may take place on Monday require the rebel MLAs to be present in Mumbai, sources have said.
Team Thackeray is unlikely to seek more rebel MLAs for disqualification since that would bring the halfway mark down, which would benefit the BJP. Sena’s play appears to be to go for disqualifying a few rebels to discourage the rest from facing elections, hence forcing them to return from Assam.