Shiv Sena MLA Pratap Sarnaik, who is under the Enforcement Directorate's scanner for alleged money laundering, has urged Maharashtra Chief Minister and Sena president Uddhav Thackeray to "reconcile" with the Bharatiya Janata Party and Prime Minister Narendra Modi "before it is too late", saying such a move will save leaders like him from problems being created by "Central agencies".
In his June 10 letter addressed to Thackeray, Sarnaik alleged the Congress and NCP, which are constituents in the Sena-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government, were weakening the saffron party by creating divisions in its ranks and also pointed out that civic polls are due in many cities, including Mumbai, in coming months.
Sarnaik, an MLA from Thane city, also stated that even though the alliance with the BJP has broken, personal and harmonious relations between leaders of the 'yuti' (Shiv Sena-BJP) remain.
"It is better to reconcile before it is too late," the MLA said in the letter.
As the letter caused a flutter, the Congress reacted cautiously, saying it was an internal matter of the Sena while Nationalist Congress Party state unit president Jayant Patil said he did not know any Sena workers crossing over to the Congress or NCP in Maharashtra.
Maharashtra BJP chief Chandrakant Patil said, "Sarnaik reiterated what the BJP has been saying from the last 18 months" (about allying with the Sena again).
Notably, the Sena had allied with the NCP and Congress to form the MVA government in November 2019 after the Uddhav Thackeray-led party fell out with the BJP after the Maharashtra Assembly polls over the post of the chief minister.
In November last year, the ED had raided premises linked to Sarnaik in Maharashtra in connection with a money laundering case being probed against a security service provider company and others.
The Shiv Sena had then called the raids a "political vendetta" and said the Maharashtra government or its leaders will not surrender to pressure from anyone.
Sarnaik also said that municipal corporation polls are due soon in several cities including Mumbai.
"I believe fighting a war like Arjun, instead of sacrificing oneself like Abhimanyu or Karna (of the epic Mahabharat). This is the reason that I have been fighting my legal battle for the last seven months alone without getting any help from our leaders or our government," he wrote.
Sarnaik also alleged that Congress and NCP were creating divisions in the Shiv Sena ranks.
"It is better to join hands with Prime Minister Narendra Modi again as Shiv Sainiks feel that it would save the Sena leaders like me, Anil Parab and Ravindra Waikar from problems caused by the Central agencies," he said.
Notably, former BJP MP Kirit Somaiya had accused the three Sena leaders of indulging in corrupt practices.
Though Sarnaik did not name Somaiya in his letter, he said a leader "who has become a 'former MP' because of the Sena" is maligning the party.
Sarnaik also claimed that Shiv Sena MLAs feel only the work of Congress and NCP legislators is being done and not of those from his party.
"Shiv Sena MLAs wonder whether the MVA has been formed, by breaking the alliance with the BJP, to help the Congress and NCP grow," he wondered.
Sarnaik further said that while CM Thackeray was focusing on COVID-19 eradication and staying away from playing politics, the Congress was talking of going alone in the next elections and the NCP was busy "breaking" Shiv Sena workers and inducting them into the Sharad Pawar-led party.
Reacting to Sarnaik's letter, Somaiya said the Sena MLA seems to be worried about jail now and so, he has asked CM Thackeray to join hands with PM Modi and the BJP.
"All corrupt leaders of the Shiv Sena - Pratap Sarnaik, Anil Parab, Ravindra Waikar - will have to be in jail," the BJP leader said in a statement.
Somaiya also said he had lodged a complaint at a police station in Thane about Sarnaik "missing" (from his constituency) for the last 100 days.
Speaking to reporters, Maharashtra Congress president Nana Patole said it was an internal matter of the Shiv Sena. "The Congress doesn't react to internal matters of other parties," he said.
"What Sarnaik is saying now we have been saying it for the last 18 months. Shiv Sena's rise in politics is due to its opposition to the Muslim appeasement policy of Congress and NCP. You (Sena) went to these parties for power. Uddhav Thackeray will take a call on Sarnaik's letter," Chandrakant Patil said.
Shiv Sena MP and chief spokesperson Sanjay Raut said the key point in the letter is that Sarnaik and others are being unnecessarily harassed by investigating agencies. "...Who is doing that (harassment) is the question?" he said.
Jayant Patil of NCP said, "Nowhere in Maharashtra, workers of the Sena have crossed over to the Congress or the NCP. We will have to check if such an attempt (to break away Sena workers) was made in Sarnaik's constituency".