As the fate of Shiv Sena-led Maharashtra government remains unclear amid rebellion by senior leader and rebel Eknath Shinde, the party on Wednesday asked all its Maharashtra MLAs, including the rebels accompanying Shinde, to attend a legislature party meeting here at 5 PM or face action under the anti-defection law.
Reacting to it, Shinde said the order issued by Sena chief whip Sunil Prabhi is "legally invalid" as MLA Bharat Gogawale is being appointed as the party chief whip.
Shinde is camping in Guwahati with a section of Sena MLAs loyal to him. He claims to have support of 46 MLAs, which means that if they defect, the Sena-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition could lose majority as its numbers would come down from 152 to 105. The majority-mark is 145.
Prabhu has written a letter and issued it to some Sena ministers, including the minister of state for Home Shambhuraj Desai who is currently staying with Shinde in Guwahati.
The letter said, "The Shiv Sena has called for an urgent meeting today evening at 'Varsha' bungalow as there have been attempts to make the MVA government unstable. The details regarding the meeting have been shared with all the members on their registered e-mail address, Whatsapp and by way of SMS.
"You cannot remain absent from the meeting without providing a valid and sufficient reason. If you do not attend the meeting, it would be presumed that you have a clear intention of leaving the party. Hence, there will be action taken against you based on the provisions for preventing anti-defection."
'Varsha' is the official residence of Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.
"Shiv Sena MLA Bharat Gogawale has been appointed as the chief whip of the Sena legislature. The orders issued by Sunil Prabhu about the meeting of MLAs are legally invalid," Shinde said in a tweet.
A day earlier, the Sena had removed Shinde as its group leader in the Legislative Assembly.
"I have more numbers [of Shiv Sena MLAs] than needed [to form a separate group in the Assembly without inviting the anti-defection law provisions],” said Shinde to a Marathi TV channel.
Earlier on Wednesday, senior Sena leader Sanjay Raut said ongoing political developments in the state could lead to dissolution of Maharashtra assembly.
"The political developments in Maharashtra are headed towards dissolution of the state Assembly," said Raut in a tweet.
Later when asked to elaborate on the tweet, Raut said, "When such a situation arises in any state, I have seen that the Legislative Assembly is dissolved."
He avoided the question on whether Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray will resign.
However, Maharashtra Congress chief Nana Patole on Wednesday said Uddhav has made it clear that there was no proposal to recommend dissolution of the state Assembly.
"We will run the government effectively," Patole said quoting Uddhav.
Sena is running the Maharashtra government with the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in the MVA coalition.
(With PTI inputs)