Mumbai: As the strength of Shiv Sena rebel leader Eknath Shinde’s group continued to swell, it reportedly stood at 38 at latest count, NCP chief Sharad Pawar – who had earlier maintained that the rebellion was Uddhav Thackeray-led party’s internal matter –entered the scene to prevent the fall of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government. The veteran leader met the CM at the latter’s residence, Matoshree, on Friday.
The NCP chief was accompanied by Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, state minister Jayant Patil and senior party leader Praful Patel. The meeting came after Ajit Pawar earlier in the day made it clear that NCP stood with the Chief Minister and would try to "keep the government stable."
Meanwhile, Thackeray has convened a meeting of the party’s national executive committee on Saturday. The meeting will be held in Shiv Sena Bhavan, which the CM will address virtually even as Deputy Speaker Narhari Zirwal cleared the appointment of Ajay Chaudhary to replace Shinde as leader of the Sena in the Assembly.
Earlier, addressing the meeting of party district chiefs, Thackeray sought to allay fears surrounding the survival of his political outfit and the MVA government. "I may have left ‘Varsha’ (CM’s official residence), but not my resolve," he said, indicating he was not going to resign.
"I have said earlier also that I don’t have anything to do with power. The people who used to say that they would rather die than leave the Shiv Sena have fled today. The rebel MLAs want to break the party. Despite the rebellions that the party has faced earlier, it came to power twice. I may have left Varsha Bungalow but not the will to fight," he added, turning emotional for some moments.
The CM also attacked rebel leader Shinde, saying he did everything for the rebel leader and yet a lot of allegations were levelled against him.
" I gave him the department (urban development), which I held. His own son is an MP and comments are being made regarding my son (Aaditya Thackeray). A lot of allegations are levelled against me," he said. "If they have courage, they should go among the people without taking the name of Balasaheb and Shiv Sena."
Thackeray also named the BJP for orchestrating the defections of MLAs and announced that he would never join hands with the BJP in the future. "The BJP backstabbed Shiv Sena and I can’t ally with them," he said.
Despite Thackeray’s emotional appeal, the rebel Shinde group continued to grow as one more Shiv Sena MLA Dilip Lande joined its camp in Assam. Lande had incidentally attended a meeting held by Thackeray on Thursday and had declared that he was ‘happy to remain with Uddhav’. With Lande’s move, there are now 38 Shiv Sena MLAs in the Shinde camp.
In another development, while the Shiv Sena has submitted a petition before Deputy Speaker Narhari Zirwal seeking the disqualification of 12 rebel MLAs, two independent MLAs have demanded the removal of Zirwal from his post. Mahesh Baldi and Vinod Agarwal, who are believed to be close to the BJP, have filed a no-confidence motion against Zirwal.