Mumbai: Maharashtra chief minister Eknath Shinde on Monday proved his government’s majority in the Assembly by a comfortable margin of 164 votes to 99, causing more embarrassment to the Opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) alliance, whose numbers depleted further in the floor test. The Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena faction suffered yet another blow as one more MLA switched loyalties to the Shinde camp minutes before the trust vote.
Further, asserting that it was the “original Shiv Sena”, Mr Shinde has threatened to take disciplinary action against 15 MLAs of the Thackeray camp who voted against him. In the 288-member Assembly, 164 MLAs voted for the motion of confidence, while 99 voted against it. Three legislators abstained from voting, while 21 legislators were absent during the trust vote.
The current strength of the Assembly is reduced to 287 due to the recent death of a Shiv Sena MLA. The BJP’s Rahul Narwekar had won the Speaker’s election on Sunday with a total of 164 votes, whereas the MVA nominee Rajan Salvi (Thackeray faction) had received 107 votes. But just ahead of the trust vote, the Thackeray camp suffered a setback as MLA Sanjay Bangar joined the Shinde group and also voted in favour of the government.
Mr Bangar was in the Uddhav clan until Sunday and had voted in favour of the Sena nominee in the Speaker’s election. After Mr Shinde and his supporters went to Guwahati, a video had appeared in which Mr Banger was seen weeping and asking the rebels to return. Mr Bangar’s support took the Shinde government’s numbers to 164 as Mr Narwekar, being the Speaker, did not vote during the floor test.
The Shinde faction now has the backing of 40 Shiv Sena MLAs. Aaditya Thackeray, son of Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, voted against the whip issued by Shiv Sena chief whip Bharat Gogawale (Shinde faction), who became Speaker on Sunday. He and the remaining 14 MLAs of the Thackeray camp are likely to face disqualification proceedings.
However, Aaditya Thackeray remained defiant, saying the Shiv Sena can “never be finished” and asserted that action will be taken against those who violated the party whip. He said: “We believe that the Speaker’s election that happened yesterday was also illegal. Our whip will remain the same.”
“People who have run away want to finish the Shiv Sena. The Shiv Sena can never be finished. They are living in a bubble now. They were in Surat, Guwahati and Goa. I don’t know where they will be taken next. We know what is in the minds of the voters. When they go back to their constituencies and meet their voters, then they will come to know the sentiments of the voters,” said Aaditya.
Shiv Sena chief and former CM Uddhav Thackeray also alleged it was the BJP’s ploy to finish his party and challenged it to hold mid-term elections in the state. Addressing a meeting of party district presidents at Shiv Sena Bhavan, Mr Thackeray said it was an insult of the Constitution to run the Legislative Assembly in an arbitrary manner.
“If you dare, then contest the intermediate elections. Instead of playing such a game, let’s go to the court of the public, if we go wrong then people will make us sit at home. If you are wrong, people will make you sit at home,” he said.
Meanwhile, NCP’s Ajit Pawar was chosen as Leader of the Opposition in the Maharashtra Assembly. NCP legislative party leader Jayant Patil proposed his name and it was approved.
The Congress has refuted rumours that it was planning to quit the MVA. Maharashtra party in-charge H.K. Patil said the Congress will continue to back the NCP and Congress. He also noted that Congress had not only supported the MVA candidate in the Speaker’s election but also voted against the government during the floor test.
The Supreme Court is, meanwhile, set to hear on July 11 a set of pleas, including one filed by the Shiv Sena, seeking the disqualification of the rebel party leaders, led by Eknath Shinde. Shiv Sena chief whip Sunil Prabhu on Friday moved the court seeking their suspension from the House till a final decision is taken on their disqualification.
Mr Prabhu has also sought an order restraining them from entering the Assembly. The Uddhav Thackeray-led MVA government collapsed after the rebellion launched by Mr Shinde and his supporter MLAs last month. Mr Shinde was sworn in as chief minister on June 30, a day after Mr Thackeray quit the post. The BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis was sworn in as the deputy chief minister.