In a shot in the arm for dissident Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde, four more MLAs from Maharashtra arrived in Gujarat's Surat on Wednesday afternoon, from where they were flown to Guwahati in Assam, where other party rebels are camping at present, sources said.
Hours after Shinde and the group of MLAs were shifted to Assam, four MLAs - Manjula Gavit, Chandrakant Patil, Gulabrao Patil and Yogesh Kadam - arrived in Surat this afternoon and went straight to the airport following a brief stay at a hotel.
While Gavit and Chandrakant Patil are independent MLAs, Kadam and Gulabrao Patil are Shiv Sena legislators.
Gulabrao Patil is Water Supply and Sanitation Minister in the Uddhav Thackeray-led cabinet. He is the second cabinet minister to have joined Shinde after Sandipal Bhumre, the Horticulture Minister.
Sources said these four MLAs left for Guwahati in a chartered plane in the evening to join the group of rebel legislators led by Shinde.
This is likely to add to the woes of the Shiv Sena-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, which is battling a survival crisis following the rebellion of senior Sena minister Shinde and a sizeable number of MLAs belonging to the Uddhav Thackeray-led party. Shinde has claimed that he has 46 MLAs supporting him.
A group of rebel Maharshtra MLAs, led by Shinde, were flown to Guwahati on Wednesday morning and were taken to a luxury hotel on the outskirts of the city amid tight security. The MLAs were taken to Surat from Mumbai on Tuesday and the decision to shift them to Guwahati was taken on security grounds, a BJP source said earlier in the day.
Shinde and other legislators were staying at a hotel on Dumas road in Surat city upon their arrival on Monday night.
Shinde on Wednesday claimed that he has the support of 34 MLAs of his party and passed a resolution on in the evening reinstating himself as the leader of the Shiv Sena legislative party, a day after he was removed from the post by the Sena leadership. He also posted a tweet saying the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) in Maharashtra was an "unnatural alliance" and it was imperative for his party to walk out of the coalition with the NCP and the Congress for its own sake and that of party workers.
Shinde and some MLAs had reached the hotel in Surat on late Monday night, hours after Legislative Council polls which saw the BJP winning a fifth seat despite not having enough numbers in the Assembly, possibly due to suspected cross-voting from the ruling bloc besides support from Independent MLAs and those from smaller parties.
After the Council poll results, Shinde went incommunicado and later it came to light he is camping in the hotel along with some party MLAs.
(With PTI inputs)