All eyes on Uddhav Thackeray’s next move

The political crisis in Maharashtra deepened on Friday when the Shiv Sena alleged that a Union minister “threatened” Nationalist Congress leader Sharad Pawar. Rebel leader Eknath Shinde, meanwhile, has claimed the support of 50 MLAs.

“He is the son of Maharashtra. They threaten him. Modi ji, Amit Shah, did you hear? Your minister threatens Sharad Pawar – do you support such threats? Maharashtra wants to know,” Sanjay Raut, who had previously tweeted the allegation, told media today.

The vice chairman is expected to send notices today to the rebel MLAs against whom disqualification pleas have been filed, party sources told NDTV. Shinde, 58, has said the disqualifications against the rebel MLAs were “illegal”. “What was done yesterday is illegal, they have no right. We are the people in the majority and numbers are important in a democracy. That is illegal, even they cannot carry out such a suspension. We’re not going to let this put us off,” he says.

The rebel MLAs are preparing to move the Supreme Court once notices are issued to them, sources have told NDTV. The Eknath Shinde camp is also expected to move the election commission’s claim to the party and the symbol, sources added.

Thirty-seven MLAs wrote to the governor and vice-chair on Thursday, naming Eknath Shinde as party leader of the legislature. The move came shortly after Team Uddav Thackeray filed disqualification requests for 12 rebels to the vice chairman.

Shinde has reached the critical number of MLAs, 37, necessary to split the party in the assembly without violating the anti-defectors law. His total strength is now 42.

As the rebel group gained in numbers, the Shiv Sena said on Thursday it would consider leaving the Maharashtra alliance with Sharad Pawar’s NCP and Congress, but only if the rebels return “within 24 hours”.

Shinde has demanded that the Sena break its alliance with Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party, or NCP, and says party leaders have suffered the most in the last two and a half years of the coalition’s rule.

Shiv Sena today convened a meeting of the party’s district chairmen. The meeting will be chaired by Uddhav Thackeray at 12 noon in Shiv Sena Bhawan, Mumbai, ANI news agency reported.

The BJP has denied charges of constructing an “Operation Lotus” in Maharashtra. However, a BJP minister of Assam was seen in photos of Eknath Shinde and the rebels at the Guwahati hotel where they are staying.

With inputs from NDTV

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