Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray's letter removing Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde from the post of 'Shiv Sena leader' would be challenged before an appropriate forum, said MLA Deepak Kesarkar, spokesperson of the rebel Sena group, on Saturday.
Thackeray, in a letter dated June 30, removed Shinde from the post of 'Shiv Sena leader', accusing him of indulging in "anti-party activities". Shinde had taken oath as the state chief minister on the same day. BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis was sworn in as his deputy.
Thackeray stepped down as the chief minister on June 29, over a week after Shinde launched a rebellion against the party. Majority of MLAs sided with him, which led to the collapse of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government led by Thackeray.
Talking to reporters in Goa, where the rebel MLAs are currently camping, about Thackeray's letter, Kesarkar said Shinde has been elected as the party's group leader in the House by majority of Sena MLAs.
"This letter (of removing Shinde from the post) is an insult of the people of Maharashtra," he said. Shinde remains our group leader in the House and his dignity should be maintained, Kesarkar said adding that Thackeray's letter would be challenged before the appropriate forum.
"We had said that we will not respond to any statement made by Uddhav Thackeray. But as far as this letter is concerned, we will have to respond," he said.
Thackeray's letter does not fit within the legal framework, he said, adding that Shinde has been elected as the group leader by the MLAs and no one can snatch that position from him.
The rebel Sena MLA also claimed that Shiv Sainiks in Maharashtra are being asked to file an affidavit pledging their loyalty to the party.
Slamming the move, he said, "The relationship between a Shiv Sainik and the party is that of love. Rather than signing affidavit, the Sainiks should be bound by 'Shiv Bandhan' thread."
Kesarkar said that Shinde and his supporters have not celebrated his appointment as chief minister. "We will not celebrate even tomorrow when he win the floor test. We will celebrate only when development takes place in Maharashtra. We should not waste time in levelling allegations and counter-allegations.
The two-and-a-half years that we lost, we have to give it back to the people," he said. Fadnavis becoming part of the cabinet has given strength to the governance, he said.
"The projects which he (Fadnavis) had started (during his stint as CM in 2014-19) would be completed… We will always remain a pro-Hindutva party," he said.
About the expansion of the Shinde cabinet, he said that the decision would be taken after the floor test (scheduled to be held on July 4). "Shinde and Fadnavis will consult with top BJP leaders in Delhi to take the decision," he added.
MLAs from the rebel Sena camp are expected to be back in Mumbai on Saturday night to attend the special two-day session of the Assembly beginning July 3.