Amid a political crisis growing bigger by the hour in Maharashtra, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray told party leaders that the sulking Minister, Eknath Shinde, camping in Surat with 21 MLAs, will return to the party fold, sources have told NDTV.
“Talks with Eknath Shinde are on. I spoke to him. He will return. NCP is also with us,” Mr Thackeray, said sources, told Sena leaders.
Mr Shinde’s demand is that the Sena restore its alliance with the BJP and rule the state.
“Some are saying that we should go with BJP. But how do we do that. We were with them and have suffered. Why should we go with them,” the Sena chief reportedly told party leaders.
All MLAs will soon be with us, the Chief Minister underlined, sending a message of unity.
Amid projections that “all will soon be well”, Mr Shinde was removed as Chief Whip, an important party post; for his part, Mr Shinde has edited his Twitter bio, removing a reference to his Shiv Sena role.
The government of Uddhav Thackeray has three components: his own party, that of Sharad Pawar, and the Congress. Last evening, it emerged that in crucial elections to the legislative council (the Upper House), cross-voting by members of the Sena and the Congress lifted the BJP to win five of 10 seats that were at stake. The cross-voting was a repeat of a similar transgression just days ago which enabled the BJP to a Rajya Sabha result that exceeded what its own numbers allowed.
Mr Shinde needs 37 MLAs to claim a two-third majority to split the Shiv Sena and avoid any action under the anti-defection law. Sources close to him claim he is just short of the number.
Mr Shinde is the most powerful Shiv Sena leader after the Thackerays.
The Sena has 55 MLAs, of which at least 21 are with Mr Shinde. Sources close to Mr Shinde claim he has more MLAs supporting him.
If the Shiv Sena splits, the Maharashtra government will fall.