Maha CM talks peace with Sena rebels, but Raut warns 'traitors'; Shinde says will be in Mumbai soon
Reaching out to dissident Shiv Sena MLAs once again, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Tuesday urged them to return to Mumbai and hold talks with him, saying it's not ''too late'', but rebel leader Eknath Shinde remained unmoved and asserted the legislators backing him are firm on taking forward Hindutva.
As the political crisis gripping the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, triggered by cabinet minister Shinde's revolt, entered the eighth day, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut ratcheted up the rhetoric against the rebels, warning those who have betrayed the party leadership should not be able to move around freely.
In the midst of turmoil in Mumbai, which has threatened the three-party MVA government's existence, former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis met Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP president J P Nadda in New Delhi to discuss the party's next course of action.
Striking a reconciliatory note a day after taking away the portfolios of all nine rebel Shiv Sena ministers and against the backdrop of the Supreme Court granting relief to breakaway MLAs, Thackeray, who is also his party's president, appealed to the dissidents camping in Guwahati to return to Mumbai and talk to him.
Thackeray's offer to mend fences comes against the backdrop of controversial statements made by some Shiv Sena leaders, especially Raut whose ''40 bodies without soul'' statement had caused a flutter.
''It is not too late. I appeal to you to return and sit with me and remove the confusion (created by your actions) among Shiv Sainiks and the public,'' a statement by Thackeray's aide quoted him as saying.
''If you return and face me, some way could be found. As the party president and family head, I still care for you,'' he said.
Thackeray said family members of some rebel MLAs camping in Guwahati are in touch with him.
''You have been stuck in Guwahati for the last few days. New information is coming out about you every day, and many of you are also in touch. In your heart, you are still with the Shiv Sena,'' he said.
As the rebellion saga unfolded, Thackeray had last week made an emotional appeal, saying he was ready to step down if Shinde and MLAs who are supporting him declared that they don’t want him to continue as CM.
“All these MLAs have come here on their own and to take forward Hindutva,'' Shinde said.
Senior Sena leaders have been claiming that around 20 MLAs of the party, now with Shinde in Guwahati, are in touch with them and want to return to Maharashtra. Shinde said, ''Some people from that side are claiming that some MLAs here are in touch with them. If it is the case, then they should reveal their names.'' ''Our stand is clear...to take forward the Shiv Sena, dreamt of by late Balasaheb Thackeray. We will continue to toe the line of his Hindutva,'' he said. Adopting an aggressive note against the rebel faction led by Shinde, Shiv Sena leader Raut said those who have betrayed the party leadership should not be able to move around.
''Traitors should not be able to roam on the streets,'' he said, addressing a rally at Alibag in Raigad district.
Raut, at the rally, also slammed the rebel MLAs' claim that their fight was for protecting the party's Hindutva moorings, pointing out that more than half of them were earlier with the NCP, the second largest constituent of the MVA.
''The rebel MLAs supporting Eknath Shinde are saying their cause is to protect the Hindutva envisaged by party founder Balasaheb Thackeray. Twenty-two of them have come from the Nationalist Congress Party. What Hindutva they are talking about? Those who opposed Balasaheb Thackeray ended up ruining their own career,'' Raut said.
He reiterated that the BJP is in a wait-and-watch mode and that it does not need to prove majority on the floor of the House as of now.
Mungantiwar, a former minister, said, ''We have decided to wait and watch. Considering the present situation, a core team will be formed in the coming days, which will deliberate on the subject and then a decision will be taken.'' In New Delhi, Fadnavis, the Leader of Opposition in the Maharashtra Assembly, was joined by BJP MP and senior lawyer Mahesh Jethmalani in the meeting with the Home Minister, sources said.
They are believed to have explored various options available for the party and deliberated on their legal feasibility as the BJP works to recapture power in Maharashtra with the help of rebel Shiv Sena MLAs and several independent lawmakers.
Around 40 rebel Sena MLAs and at least 10 independent legislators from the state have lodged themselves at a five-star hotel in Assam in their bid to bring down the two-and-a-half-year-old MVA government.
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