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4 more join Sena rebels as they inch closer to mark needed to split the party


Four more lawmakers Deepak Kesarkar, Sada Sarvankar, Mangesh Kudalkar, and Sanjay Rathod have joined the Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena faction, taking its strength to 35, two short of the 37-mark needed to split the party without attracting disqualification under the anti-defection law.

The development came even as Shiv Sena has organised a press conference of two legislators Kailas Patil and Nitin Deshmukh, who went to Surat with the rebels but returned to pledge support for chief minister Uddhav Thackeray.

Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut alleged the legislators were threatened and taken to Guwahati from Surat. “Those who left are not Shiv Sena. The real Shiv Sena is what we saw on the streets of Mumbai yesterday [Wednesday]. Our party is strong. Some MLAs [members of legislative assembly] leaving us does not mean that the organisation is weak. Around 17-18 are in the custody of the Bharatiya Janata Party. We are in touch with 20 MLAs.”

A purported resolution document with 34 signatories, including two from the Prahar Janshakti Party and two Independent legislators, on Wednesday effectively meant the number of Sena lawmakers was 30.

Deshmukh returned to Mumbai, ostensibly bringing the tally down to 29. But by late on Wednesday evening, two Sena lawmakers joined the rebel camp with two independent legislators, taking the rebel camp’s strength to 37, of which 31 were Sena members.

Shinde on Wednesday needed six more Shiv Sena legislators to hit the 37-mark, and insiders from the rebel group insisted that they were on their way. He claimed to have 40 party lawmakers with him as they arrived in Guwahati from Surat on Wednesday.

Maharashtra’s Maha Vikas Aghadi is battling for its political survival. On Wednesday, Thackeray made a last-ditch emotive appeal to rebel lawmakers threatening to pull down his government and shatter the three-party ruling alliance.

The legislators, both from Shiv Sena and others, are scheduled to meet at their Guwahati hotel around 1 pm where they are expected to discuss their future strategy. Another meeting could take place later in the afternoon depending on how things unfold.

The lawmakers are expected to spend another two to three days in Guwahati.



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