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15 Shiv Sena MLAs To Rejoin Uddhav?

July 05, 2023 15:09 IST
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'You know how politics is. You never know what will happen the next moment.'

IMAGE: June 20, 2022: Eknath Shinde with other rebel Shiv Sena MLAs at Surat's Le Meridien hotel. Photograph: Twitter

Just 12 months after 40 Shiv Sena MLAs rebelled against party president and then chief minister Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray and joined Eknath Shinde to form a government with the Bharatiya Janata Party, some of them have shown interest in returning to the mothership.

This startling development comes two days after Ajit Pawar, who many of these MLAs considered their bete noire, was sworn in as Maharashtra's deputy chief minister.

Two Shiv Sena MLAs, speaking on condition that they would not be identified by name for this report, confirmed to Prasanna D Zore/ that as many as 15 of them who had rebelled against Uddhav in June 2022 have shown interest in "ghar wapsi".

Prominent among these 15, they claim, are Shiv Sena chief whip Bharatshet Gogawale, Sanjay Rathod, cabinet minister Gulabrao Patil, Sanjay Shirsat and Sandeepan Bhumre.

Both Gogawale and Shirsat described this as canard spread by the Shiv Sena-Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray camp to weaken the SS-BJP-NCP government by taking advantage of the animosity that the 40 MLAs who went along with Eknath Shinde have for Ajit Pawar.

Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, who was in Nagpur to welcome President Droupadi Murmu on July 4, returned to Mumbai late on Tuesday to quell the disquiet among Shiv Sena MLAs and MPs following the swearing-in of nine Nationalist Congress Party MLAs on July 2 including Ajit Pawar.

Shiv Sena-UBT MLA and former transport minister Anil Parab denied that there was a possibility of 15 Shiv Sena MLAs jumping ship.

"I don't know if they (the 15 Shiv Sena MLAs) are in touch with my party's senior leaders, but none of them have tried to contact me," says Parab.

Gogawale, who was appointed Shiv Sena chief whip soon after the rebellion against Thackeray, was in the mood for some humour when asked to confirm if he is planning to switch sides to the SS-UBT camp.

"If my name is included in that list, then I think the news could be true," Gogawale, the MLA from Mahad, quipped.

"The thought has not even crossed our mind. I think the SS-UBT is spreading lies to weaken Shinde saheb," he added.

"We are planning to meet tonight (Wednesday night) and all our differences will be resolved at that meeting," says Gogawale without answering if a large group from the Shiv Sena is restless and angry with Ajit Pawar's inclusion in the government.

"You know how politics is. You never know what will happen the next moment," he adds in response to a query if Shiv Sena MLAs would be comfortable working with Ajit Pawar, who was cited as the main reason for their June 2022 rebellion against Uddhav.

"Whatever we say or do, all of us are loyal sainiks of Balasaheb Thackeray. It's a fact that we rebelled against Uddhav saheb. But let bygones be bygones," says Gogawale.

"There is no point in crying over spilt milk now. Let us see how we can improve the situation going forward."

In June 2022, the rebel Shiv Sena MLAs charged Ajit Pawar with not allowing Shiv Sena MLAs to implement development programmes in their constituencies when he was the finance minister in the MVA government.

"If they (the NCP ministers) start interfering with work in our constituencies or start denying funds to us, then Jai Maharashtra (we may quit the government)," warns Gogawale.

"We often cautioned Uddhav saheb to listen to our pleas. Had he listened to us, then there would have been no split in the party. He chose to ignore us and listened only to the NCP and Ajit Pawar," says Gogawale.

"While we did understand the compromises we had to make when three different ideological parties came together to form the (MVA) government, and were even willing to give way, the NCP tried to dominate us completely and that is why we had to rebel. We were made to feel helpless in front of people of our own constituents," declares Gogawale.

"With the NCP getting nine ministries it is obvious that there will be anger among those in the Shiv Sena who were hoping to become ministers. There is a sense of anger and resentment among a few of us," says Sanjay Shirsat, the Shiv Sena MLA from Aurangabad West, who is considered close to Eknath Shinde.

"Even I am hopeful of being sworn in as a minister," adds Shirsat. "We are all confident that CM saheb will take care of all these issues now that he is back in Mumbai."

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