A number of BJP leaders have made a beeline to meet Eknath Shinde, the senior Shiv Sena leader — who has landed Maharashtra’s Uddhav Thackeray government in deep crisis — in Surat. Mr Shinde, after a disagreement with the Chief Minister, is camping out in BJP-ruled Gujarat with 21 party MLAs and has deleted Shiv Sena from his Twitter bio after Mr Thackeray sacked him from his cabinet.
Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut has claimed the rebellion has been engineered by the BJP to bring down the government — a claim the BJP has denied.
This evening, Maharashtra BJP chief Chandrakant Patil played down the meetings, saying the MLAs are meeting Mr Shinde in their “personal capacity” and distanced his party from the turmoil in the ruling alliance.
“BJP MLA Sanjay Kute from Maharashtra met Shiv Sena rebel Eknath Shinde in Surat in his personal capacity. The BJP has nothing to do with the ongoing developments. Shinde’s decision is not part of any game plan of the BJP,” Mr Patil was quoted as saying by news agency Press Trust of India.
He also added that if the BJP receives any proposal from Mr Shinde to form government, they would “definitely consider it”.
The BJP has claimed that it has 134 votes in the 288-member Maharashtra Assembly. With one legislator dead, the number is down to 287. If the MLAs led by Eknath Shinde resign, the majority mark in the House will be 133, down from the current 144. The ruling coalition’s strength will be down to 130.
The crisis in Maharashtra’s ruling alliance erupted after a series of cross-votings in the recently-held Rajya Sabha and yesterday’s Legislative Council elections, leading to big BJP gains.
The BJP, while distancing itself from the crisis in the Sena, claimed they had earlier flagged the discontent within the party.
Senior BJP leader and former state minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said, “There was no secret that several Sena leaders were unhappy with the government as well”.