Uddhav Thackeray, watching hordes of Shiv Sena leaders switching to the rival faction led by Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, will start losing his MPs soon.
A dozen Shiv Sena MPs are in touch with Eknath Shinde and may form a separate group in the Lok Sabha, sources say. This coincides with the Chief Minister’s visit to Delhi for discussions with the BJP leadership on the Maharashtra cabinet.
The MPs wrote to Speaker Om Birla last night informing him about the separate Sena group to be led by the party’s Mumbai South Central MP Rahul Shewale.
The group may also appoint a chief whip; Yavatmal MP Bhavana Gawli is likely to take that job. She was recently removed as Chief Whip as Uddhav Thackeray for anti-party activities and replaced by Rajan Vichare, but the Speaker has not given any official decision.
The Shiv Sena has 19 MPs in Lok Sabha, 18 from Maharashtra.
Sources in the Shinde Sena claim 12 of these 19 MPs attended a virtual meeting with Eknath Shinde on Monday and extended their support while expressing their faith and confidence in the rebel leader whose faction now dominates the party founded by Bal Thackeray, Uddhav Thackeray’s father.
Around the same time, the 12 MPs were given special Y-category security.
The MPs will lay claim to the Shiv Sena’s official symbol only after the Speaker decides on their request to be recognized as a separate group.
Most MLAs of the Shiv Sena joined Eknath Shinde last month, bringing down Uddhav Thackeray’s coalition government. Mr Shinde formed a government with the BJP, which powered his successful coup against his party chief.
Last week, after a meeting with his MPs, Uddhav Thackeray broke with his alliance partners and declared support for the BJP’s presidential candidate Droupadi Murmu. Opposition parties said Mr Thackeray, beaten and isolated, he had little choice but to agree with his MPs.
Mr Thackeray and Mr Shinde are now waiting for the Supreme Court’s decision on multiple cases related to the Shiv Sena revolt, which may or may not settle the question of who’s the boss of the Shiv Sena.