The day Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray stripped rebel ministers of their porfolios, his son and state minister Aaditya Thackeray claimed that 15 to 20 rebel MLAs are in touch with him and have urged the party to bring them back to Mumbai from Guwahati, where they are lodged in a hotel along with Eknath Shinde who has spearheaded the rebellion against Uddhav.
Shinde's rebellion has pushed the Sena-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition's government into a major crisis, which also comprises of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress.
Aaditya said, "Around 15-20 MLAs are in touch with us. They call me and Shiv Sainiks and urged us to bring them back from Guwahati. Their situation is like a prisoner, first in Surat and then in Guwahati."
A majority of Sena MLAs, including nine ministers, have joined Shinde in the rebellion, threatening the existence of the two-and-a-half-year old government. Shinde says he has support of 40 MLAs, which means the MVA coalition would lose majority if they withdraw support as its numbers would come down from 152 to 112. The majority-mark is 145 in the 288-member assembly.
Addressing Shiv Sena workers in Karjat, on outskirts of Mumbai, Aaditya said every party worker is seeing the current situation as an opportunity and not as a problem.
"The dirt has gone away. Now we can do something good," said Aaditya, referring to the rebel MLAs.
He said there were murmurs before Shinde's rebellion took place on June 21 that some developments will take place in the party.
The Sena has claimed some legislators have been kidnapped or forcibly taken by the rebel camp.
Slamming Shinde without taking his name, Uddhav said some leaders were "blindly trusted" and the sad part is such people were promoted in the organisation continuously. He said the MLAs leaving the parties was like "cleaning the 'nullahs' and garbage before the onset of monsoon".
Earlier on Monday, Uddhav handed over portfolios of nine rebel ministers to other ministers. After divesting the rebels of their portfolios, the Sena now has only four cabinet ministers, including CM Uddhav, Aaditya Thackeray, Anil Parab, and Subhash Desai. Barring Aaditya, the rest three are MLCs.
In a separate but related development, the Supreme Court on Monday granted interim relief to Shinde's rebel camp, saying no decision will be taken on their disqualification till July 11.
Shinde's camp had filed pleas against disqualification notices issued by the deputy speaker to them. A vacation bench of Justices Surya Kant and JB Pardiwala was told by senior advocate NK Kaul, who appeared for Sena rebels, that the Sena led by Uddhav is in the "minority" of the legislative party and has been "subverting the state machinery".
Kaul said that atmosphere is not conducive for these MLAs in Bombay as they have been threatened. He cited the apex court verdict in the Nabam Rebia case of Arunachal Pradesh and said the deputy speaker is not competent to proceed with the disqualification of MLAs when a plea for his own removal is pending.
Besides staying disqualification till July 11, the Supreme Court further said it cannot pass order on floor test as that would create unnecessary complications. It further refused to pass any interim order on plea that there should not be any floor test in Maharashtra Legislative Assembly till July 11.
(With PTI inputs)