Maharashtra’s political drama is beginning to surpass any Bollywood film in terms of entertainment with the tug of war between Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and rebel minister Eknath Shinde intensifying with every passing second. In its desperation to retain power, Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sainiks are doing all in their power to prevent any party rebel from leaving the camp, but reports of MLAs going incommunicado are springing up every other second.
According to reports, many of the party’s ‘street enforcers’ have been caught off guard as they face off against their own party members as several leaders when missing to join Eknath Shinde on Monday, June 20.
In one such dramatic incident that took place on Tuesday night, Minister of Water Supply and Sanitation Gulabrao Patil dodged the Shiv Sainiks, who kept hunting for him the entire night, to reach the Eknath Shinde’s camp currently lodged in Guwahati, Assam.
The escape of #ShivSena Min #GulabraoPatil from Mumbai to Guwahati is a script from Bollywood. Apparently Patil went unreachable first, then an entire troop of ShivSainiks started looking for him, they went to hotel where MLAs were staying, only to find him missing from there.— Singh Varun (@singhvarun) June 23, 2022
According to reports, a top leader of the Uddhav Thackeray camp summoned his workers in south Mumbai to deliver orders from top brass asking them to track down Patil at any cost. The Shiv Sainiks from South Mumbai led by Shakha Pramukh Pandurang Sakpal immediately sprung into action and launched a massive manhunt through the night to track Patil, reported Indian Express.
In what transpired, the Maharashtra Water Supply and Sanitation Minister Gulabrao Patil was unreachable on Tuesday. The entire troop of Shiv Sainiks immediately launched a search operation to trace him. The Shiv Sainiks reportedly first went to the hotel where the MLAs were staying, only to find him missing from there. The party workers, under a lot of pressure from the top brass, kept roaming the streets of South Mumbai the entire night. They were asked to catch hold of Patil at any cost and make him speak to Uddhav Thackeray.
However, when the Shiv Sainiks had no luck with finding him, they decided to camp outside Patil’s bungalow in South Mumbai, where he ultimately caught hold of him on Wednesday morning.
“We got a call at 11 pm and were told to look for Patil. We looked for him everywhere possible, including the St Regis hotel in Lower Parel, but as we could not find him, we decided to camp near his official residence in the morning. We managed to get hold of him around 8.30 am on Wednesday,” said a party worker.
As soon as Sakpal saw Patil, he insisted that the latter speak to Uddhav Thackeray, who he said was been trying to get in touch with the minister since Tuesday evening.
Sources in the party said, according to Indian Express, that Patil misguided the Shiv Sainiks, as he told them that he already had a word with the party chief. “We were told that he has some work in Mantralaya and will go to Varsha bungalow to meet the CM after that,” said a source.
Patil then entered the Mantralaya in his official car, which somehow convinced the Shiv Sainiks that Patil would soon be going to Varsha to meet Uddhav Thackeray. Patil, however, instead of heading to Varsha dodged the Shiv Sainiks and slipped out of the Mantralaya from another exit point in a private car. “His official vehicle is still inside Mantralaya and he escaped while we were waiting for him outside the Secretariat,” a party source was quoted by the Indian Express as saying.
“Patil headed towards Chembur via the Eastern Express Highway. Our Sainiks also followed him but he vanished,” said a party worker.
Meanwhile, another party source added, “He disappeared from Chembur… We believe prior arrangements had been made near Chembur from where he was taken to the airport.”
Patil was later seen with other rebel Sena MLAs in Guwahati. When contacted, Sakpal said, “Patil told me that he is coming with us but he had made up his mind, so he kept us in the dark and escaped.”
After the MLC election results were declared on Monday, cracks developed in the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra. The MLC elections resulted in the BJP winning unexpected 5 seats out of 10 whereas, in spite of having adequate numbers, the Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance could only manage to win 5 seats out of 6 candidates fielded.
It may be recalled that on June 20, Shiv Sena leader and Maharashtra Urban Development Minister Eknath Shinde was reported ‘missing’ along with several MLAs. The reports of him being ‘out of reach’ came out after legislative council elections on Monday. There have been rumours floating around that some of the Shiv Sena MLAs cross-voted in the elections resulting in the BJP winning the MLC seats.
“Thirty-nine MLAs accompanied me. We are loyal to Balasaheb Thackeray’s ideology of ‘Hindutva’ and we are keen to take it forward,” Eknath Shinde had said. Shinde said now he has the support of 46 MLAs, including 6-7 independents.
Meanwhile, amid the ongoing political crisis in Maharashtra, Shiv Sena MP and senior leader Sanjay Raut yesterday, hinted at the dissolution of the state Assembly. In a tweet in Marathi, he said, Maharashtra state developments are heading towards a dissolution of the state assembly.