Uddhav Thackeray, reduced to a minority in his own party by a stunning revolt by his minister, said today the Shiv Sena rebels are “trying to break the party” and added: “Why should I feel bad about those who have left?”
The Maharashtra Chief Minister, addressing a group of party leaders virtually as he has Covid, said those who had always declared they would rather die than leave the Shiv Sena had today simply “run away”.
“How far can you go without using the names of Shiv Sena and Thackeray,” Mr Thackeray questioned, targeting the MLAs who have deserted him.
“You can take away the flowers, the fruit and the stems of trees but you can’t destroy the roots,” he said.
The Sena chief and his son Aaditya Thackeray met with the Shiv Sena’s district heads this afternoon as they looked completely outnumbered and outmaneuvered by Eknath Shinde, who has gained the support of more than 40 MLAs. Aaditya Thackeray attended the meeting in person and was greeted by a crowd of party workers who lashed out at the rebels, raised slogans and even wept.
Eknath Shinde and his expanding group of rebels has been staying at a five-star hotel in Assam’s Guwahati and sources say they expect their tally to cross 50 over the weekend. Mr Shinde had been smarting for some time, say sources, and Aaditya Thackeray’s rise as virtual number two in the party had pushed him further away.
“Eknath Shinde makes his own son an MP then why does he have a problem with my son,” Mr Thackeray reportedly said.
“My body was aching, from my head and neck to my feet. Some people thought I would not recover…My eyes were not opening, but I didn’t care about myself. I am not into power games.”
This is Mr Thackeray’s second emotional speech since Wednesday, when he had stopped short of resigning but had said he was ready to resign if even a single MLA said it to his face.
But since that appeal, more and more MLAs have been flying to Assam to join the rebels.
Mr Shinde has enough MLAs – he needs 37 but has more than 40 – to split the party and claim leadership of the “real Shiv Sena”.
Hosted by the BJP, first in Gujarat and then in Assam, Mr Shinde is widely expected to collaborate with the Sena’s oldest alliance partner and make a bid for power in Maharashtra.