The Maharashtra crisis peaked with 37 Shiv Sena MLAs of the Eknath Shinde faction collectively sending a letter to Maharashtra Assembly Deputy Speaker Narhari Zirwal on Thursday stating that Eknath Shinde will remain their group leader.
Further, the letter mentioned that Sena MLA Bharat Gogawale has been appointed as chief whip of the legislature party in place of Sunil Prabhu.
This comes as the Deputy Speaker had approved Ajay Chaudhary as the group leader of the Shiv Sena legislature party, replacing rebel minister Eknath Shinde.
Shinde's explosive move also comes shortly after Team Uddav Thackeray fought back, filing disqualification applications for 12 rebels with the Deputy Speaker, which may help tweak the numbers in the Assembly in case of a trust vote. Eknath Shinde has argued that the application is illegal.
"Who are you trying to scare? We know your make-up and the law too! According to the 10th Schedule to the Constitution (Schedule) the whip is for assembly work, not for meeting. There are numerous Supreme Court decisions in this regard," tweeted Eknath Shinde. The Sena had threatened MLAs who skipped a legislature party meeting called by Uddhav Thackeray On Wednesday with disqualification.
Eknath Shinde has reached the critical number of MLAs, 37, required to split the party in the assembly without falling foul of the anti-defection law. His total strength is now 42. Two more MLAs, Dada Bhuse and Sanjay Rathore and one MLC, Ravibdra Fathak, had joined his team in Guwahati in the evening.
Earlier on Thursday, the Shiv Sena said it would consider exiting the Maharashtra alliance with Sharad Pawar's NCP and Congress but only if the rebels return "in 24 hours".
But what appeared a capitulation was accompanied by a threat. These MLAs who have left... they will find it difficult to return and move around in Maharashtra," Raut had added.
Eknath Shinde has demanded the Sena break its alliance with the Congress and the NCP, saying this was diluting its Hindutva ideology and that the party leaders suffered the most in the last two-and-a-half years of the coalition rule.