MLAs of Shinde Faction Return to Mumbai Amid Heavy Security; Assembly Speaker Election Today

Newly sworn-in Maharashtra chief minister Eknath Shinde on Saturday evening brought 50 MLAs, who support him, back to Mumbai city from Goa by a chartered flight on the eve of a special two-day session of the state legislative assembly. An election for the post of speaker and a floor test of the newly formed government will be held on July 3 to 4, respectively.

After they returned, the Shinde group held a top-level meeting with the BJP, where the new CM was felicitated and deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis said the “family is reunited”.

On July 4, Shinde will face a floor test as he claims to have the support of 50 legislators, including 39 rebel MLAs of the Shiv Sena. Shinde had flown to Goa in the morning to bring them back to the state capital. Traffic was halted for some time when the buses carrying the MLAs left the airport. The MLAs were staying at a hotel in Goa since June 29 after flying in from Assam’s Guwahati.

Fadnavis addressed the MLAs during the top-level meeting, saying, “We had never felt for so many years that the Sena and BJP are any different. In between, there was some distance, but we are all together now. Those who have come with us are Balasaheb’s true sainiks,” adding, “we have to walk together and make Maharashtra prosperous again.”

There was much sloganeering during the meeting, while Shinde said the BJP and “Shiv Sena” government now formed is Bal Thackeray’s dream fulfilled.

“The Bjp-Sena alliance government is formed. This is what we see today as Balasaheb’s dream being fulfilled,” he said, adding that Hindutva ideologue Veer Savarkar was being insulted over the past two-and-a-half years and minister with links to gangster Dawood Ibrahim were being protected in that time frame.

“During the last 2.5 years, Savarkar was insulted, minister with links to Dawood was being protected. All this made us restless. We tried in vain to tell our leadership but what’s the use of being an MLA if we can’t get justice for our own people?” Shinde asked.

Appreciating the efforts made by Fadnavis, he said he was thankful to the BJP leadership. “We will work hard now, and clear the backlog of the last 2.5 years,” he added.

Maharashtra BJP leader Sudhir Mungantiwar said the decision to form a new cabinet under Shinde will be made after the assembly session. The decision to allocate portfolios will be taken once the two-day session is over, he added.

“Once this session is over, the state leadership of both the parties (the BJP and the Eknath Shinde faction of Shiv Sena) can decide about the allocation of portfolios,” Mungantiwar said.

Meanwhile, NCP president Sharad Pawar claimed that Deputy Speaker Narhari Zirwal can still perform officiating Speaker’s duties even though a no-confidence motion is pending against him. The post of Speaker is vacant since last year after Congress leader Nana Patole resigned to become his party’s state unit president.

Earlier in the day, Uddhav Thackeray’s loyalist and Shiv Sena MLA Rajan Salvi filed his nomination as the candidate of the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress coalition for the post, which will be held on Sunday. He will contest against the first-time BJP legislator Rahul Narvekar.

On Wednesday, Thackeray resigned as Chief Minister after the Supreme Court refused to stay the floor test ordered by the governor and it became apparent that Shinde had support of the majority of Sena MLAs. Shinde took oath as CM the next day with BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis as his deputy.

On being asked about ongoing power battle to control Shiv Sena, Pawar said there would be a long legal battle ahead for deciding which faction of the Shiv Sena would be considered as the “original” party. “The court will have the final say is what I feel,” he told reporters in Pune.

On Friday, Thackeray, who heads the Sena, removed Shinde as ‘Shiv Sena leader’ for “anti-party activities”. MLA Deepak Kesarkar, a Shinde supporter, said the chief minister will challenge the decision in a court.

(with inputs from PTI)

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