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June 28, 2022
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Maharashtra crisis: Shiv Sena’s Eknath Shinde claims support of 46 MLAs

Eknath Shinde, a senior minister in the state government, says he has the support of 40 of the 56 lawmakers from the ruling Shiv Sena party.

His rebellion has brought the state’s Sena-led coalition government to the brink of collapse.

Senior party leaders, including Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, have urged Mr Shinde to reconsider his decision.

He is yet to respond to these overtures.

Long-term allies in the state, Shiv Sena and the BJP split after the 2019 state elections following differences over power sharing.

The BJP had won the largest number of 106 seats in the 288-member assembly, but the Sena was able to form a coalition government with the regional Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), India’s main opposition Congress party, and several other smaller groups and independents.

Reports say that Mr Shinde is interested in reviving the alliance with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), bringing it back to power in the state.

As the rift has deepened this week, the state has witnessed high drama with the factions led by Mr Shinde and Mr Thackeray sequestering their loyal lawmakers in hotels to stop the other side from poaching them.

To avoid disqualification under India’s anti-defection law, Mr Shinde needs the support of 37 lawmakers in the state. He has claimed the support of 40 Sena lawmakers and six independents, but the number is yet to be independently verified.

Along with several of his supporters, Mr Shinde is lodged at a hotel in the north-eastern state of Assam, where they were received by two leaders of the BJP on their arrival on Tuesday.

The crisis began after Mr Shinde, a veteran Shiv Sena leader, became “unreachable” after Monday’s legislative council elections in the state.

The Shiv Sena and its allies were predicted to win six of the 10 seats, but they got only five. The BJP, which was expected to win only four, won the other five, amid reports of cross-voting by Sena rebels.

Media reports then said that Mr Shinde, accompanied by 11 other Sena lawmakers, had left for Surat city in the western state of Gujarat.

Mr Thackeray responded by removing Mr Shinde as party whip.

Mr Shinde then dropped the Shiv Sena from his Twitter profile and was seen meeting BJP leaders who later visited him at his hotel in Gujarat.

Mr Shinde and his supporters flew to Guwahati city in Assam on Tuesday night, shortly after a phone conversation with Mr Thackeray.

Mr Shinde has claimed he is not breaking away from the Shiv Sena and that the lawmakers will carry forward the Hindu nationalist legacy of the party’s founder Balasaheb Thackery – the chief minister’s late father.

Mr Thackeray has called a meeting of the state cabinet on Wednesday which will also be attended by NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Congress leader Kamal Nath.

Senior Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut has blamed the BJP for the revolt within his party, accusing it of trying to topple the coalition government.

The BJP currently has 113 lawmakers in a house of 287. It needs 145 seats to have a majority in the assembly and form a government.

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