Team Himanta’s Logistical Fingerprints At Hotel Housing Sena MLAs


Himanta Biswa Sarma had said he doesn’t know if there are Maharashtra MLAs in Assam

Guwahati:

The BJP’s top leadership chose Assam’s Himanta Biswa Sarma among all other Chief Ministers from the party’ arsenal to oversee – from a distance – the rebellion by Shiv Sena MLAs against party chief Uddhav Thackeray, people with direct knowledge of the matter have told NDTV.

These Sena rebel MLAs led by another MLA, Eknath Shinde, are camping at a five-star hotel on the outskirts of Assam’s main city, Guwahati.

Though many Assam BJP leaders close to Mr Sarma are overseeing the latest ‘Operation Lotus’ – a reference to the BJP’s election symbol that often comes up during controversial rival state government crises – no BJP leader or minister are part of any internal meetings of the rebel Sena MLAs, the sources said.

A young MP, known to be close to Mr Sarma, is the pointsman, sources said, adding at least three Assam BJP ministers are closely overseeing logistical matters at the Guwahati hotel.

Mr Sarma, who earned the title ‘north-east election strategist’ for taking the BJP to victory in Assam in 2016 and again in 2021, came to Delhi for Draupadi Murmu’s nomination for the presidential election as the BJP’s candidate, and was supposed to leave for Guwahati this evening.

But he has been asked to remain in Delhi today for discussions with the top leadership on the unfolding Maharashtra rebellion and would fly back to Guwahati tomorrow, the sources said, asking not to be identified.

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Radisson Blu Guwahati – The hotel in Guwahati where the rebel Shiv Sena MLAs are staying.

The Assam Chief Minister has tasked his close aides in the cabinet to oversee matters at the Guwahati hotel, BJP sources told NDTV. Most of these Assam leaders were with the Congress before joining the BJP, they said.

BJP Yuva Morcha leaders have been spotted staying in the hotel in turns, helping with logistics, sources said. An Assam Police officer, who was involved in the arrest of Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani and bringing him to the northeast state in late April, was seen in plainclothes moving inside the hotel for security checks, they said.

Mr Sarma yesterday said he doesn’t know if there are Maharashtra MLAs in Assam. “There are many good hotels in Assam, anyone can come there and stay…there is no issue with it. I don’t know if Maharashtra MLAs are staying in Assam. MLAs of other states can also come and stay in Assam,” he told news agency ANI.

The selection of Assam, apart from making it more difficult for Mr Thackeray’s emissaries to reach, reflects the BJP top leadership’s trust on Mr Sarma and also his standing as someone who the party is likely to front as their national troubleshooter.

The overnight transfer of Mr Shinde’s flock from Gujarat’s Surat to Guwahati was micro-managed by an MLA close to Mr Sarma, who recently quit the Congress and joined the BJP, sources said.

For now, the battle for Shiv Sena’s control has moved from the streets to the drawing room, where the legal teams of Mr Thackeray and Mr Shinde are working to make a claim as the rightful owner of Maharashtra’s ruling party.

The Sena has filed application with the Deputy Speaker to disqualify 16 rebel MLAs in a last-ditch attempt to save the ruling alliance.

But 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.



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