Status quo in Maharashtra till July 11 or are there other plans?
Even as the Shiv Sena rebel MLAs in Assam claimed ‘victory’ in the Supreme Court, amidst mounting suspense and tension the Governor is said to have asked the Centre to keep central forces on stand by
The rebels in Guwahati have a long wait ahead of them.
Even as the Supreme Court deferred the hearing on their case and gave them time until July 11 to submit their affidavits to the Deputy Speaker against their disqualification, the Maha Vikas Aghadi government claimed to be conducting business as usual.
Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray today redistributed the portfolios of the rebel ministers among those still by his side, interacted with government officials and cleared files, even as he waited for the rebels to pick up his gauntlet and come and meet him face to face.
While the general consensus is that the Supreme Court’s decision to hear the rebels’ petition again on July 11 means there will be status quo till then, there are other signals as well. The Enforcement Directorate’s summons to Shiv Sena MP and Uddhav Thackeray loyalist Sanjay Raut and the Governor returning to the Raj Bhavan from Goa have set tongues wagging about other plans being afoot to pull down the Government.
Reports coming out of Matoshree, however, suggest that Uddhav Thackeray is not in a forgiving mood and is hell bent upon showing rebel MLAs their place. The rebels face the dilemma of crawling back for a temporary reprieve or merge with the BJP and lose their identity and place in the Shiv Sena. Their identity as Shiv Sainiks could then get submerged even faster and they are unlikely to have the same kind of support at the grassroots as they had when in the Shiv Sena.
Caught between a rock and a hard place, the rebels are also facing some loss of face as reports coming out of Gujarat suggest their hotel bills in Surat continue to be unpaid and reports that they left Surat because the city had exhausted all its supplies of liquor. There is of course prohibition in Gujarat and the rebel MLAs had apparently demanded more than they could be supplied with. Assam was chosen not just because Eknath Shinde, as a tantric, wished to visit the Kamakhya temple there but also because it would be far from prying eyes.
That has not helped, however, with local media houses sending reporters all the way to Assam and every fresh video coming out of the hotel shows the MLAs either grim-faced or involved in drunken revelry. They are said to be disappointed at the long waiting time given by the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, the Enforcement Directorate seems to have blown some fresh life into the Shiv Sena by sending a summons to Sanjay Raut to appear before them on Tuesday. A defiant Raut has welcomed the confrontation by challenging them to arrest him and saying even if they beheaded him, he was not going to take the Guwahati route to escape. Labelling the summons as a conspiracy to stop him, he said Balasaheb Thackeray's Shiv Sainiks were fighting a big battle in Maharashtra – the implications were clear though and not much further was said and no threats held out.
Reports now also suggest that one more rebel may have escaped the Shinde camp and could be making his way back to Mumbai even as there is some traffic in the reverse direction with observers flummoxed why they were not stopped by Uddhav Thackeray. However, there is also speculation that these two-three MLAs could be Shiv Sena moles and that Shinde is wary of welcoming them to his camp or trusting them.
Meanwhile, even as the Shinde camp claims victory for “Balasaheb and Dighe saheb's Hindutva" after the Supreme Court proceedings, Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari is returning to the Raj Bhavan after Covid recovery in Goa and the next two days could see significant developments.
Also, the warkaris - annual pilgrims to the Pandharpur Vithoba temple – are worried about who would offer the puja at the temple on Ashadhi Ekadashi. It is a very important tradition for Maharashtra with the chief minister presiding, even if he is an atheist like Sharad Pawar or Muslim like AR Antulay. The Supreme Court decision has lengthened the process though the Uddhav Thackeray camp claims it will be he who would be in attendance and none else. The month of Ashadh in the Hindu calendar begins on June 29 and Ashadhi Ekadashi this year falls on July 10.