Mumbai, June 22, 2022: Uddhav Thackeray, fighting a revolt that has endangered his government in Maharashtra, said today he is "ready to resign" anytime but stopped short of announcing his resignation as Chief Minister.
"I am ready to quit the Chief Minister’s post right now. Positions come and go...But can you promise me the next Chief Minister will be from the Shiv Sena," Uddhav Thackeray said in a sharp message for the Shiv Sena rebels led by Eknath Shinde, one of his top party leaders.
In an emotional address, his first since Eknath Shinde left Mumbai with 21 MLAs in the dead of night on Monday, the Shiv Sena chief said he was "hurt" at his own party men turning on him. Some would even say his voice was shaky, Mr Thackeray said, adding that it was on account of Covid.
"Come and tell me to resign to my face and I’ll quit as Chief Minister. The Chief Minister’s position came to me accidentally - it’s not something I yearn," Mr Thackeray said, claiming the post came to him "accidentally".
"Despite (NCP leader Sharad) Pawar Saheb’s and (Congress leader) Kamal Nath’s support, if my own people don’t want me to be Chief Minister then what should I do? I don’t know if I can call them my people because they don’t see me as theirs," he said.
In what appeared to be a reach-out to the rebels, who have often accused him of being unapproachable, Uddhav Thackeray announced a move from the Chief Minister’s residence "Varsha" to his home "Matoshree", the unofficial headquarters of the party founded by his father Bal Thackeray.
Mr Thackeray’s speech was livestreamed on Facebook shortly after 30 Shiv Sena MLAs wrote to the Governor backing Eknath Shinde as their leader, shoving the ruling coalition into a more precarious spot than ever.
Thirty-four MLAs, who are at a hotel in Guwahati in BJP-ruled Assam, wrote to Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari that Eknath Shinde is their leader.
The signatories to the letter include 30 Sena and four independent MLAs.
This means Eknath Shinde needs seven more Sena MLAs on his side to split the party without risking disqualification under the anti-defection law.
Four more Sena MLAs took a flight to Guwahati this evening, escorted by Maharashtra BJP chief Chandrakant Patil.
Mr Thackeray said he was "getting calls from MLAs who have gone with Eknath Shinde claiming that they were kidnapped".
Mr Shinde made significant moves today to show who’s the boss in the Shiv Sena now, boldly challenging a Thackeray for the first time in the party. He said he would carry forward the "Hindutva" ideology of Balasaheb Thackeray, indicating that Uddhav Thackeray had allowed the whittling down of the Sena’s code ideology in its partnership with the ideologically opposed NCP and Congress.
"Shiv Sena will never give up on Hindutva," Mr Thackeray declared, stung by the rebel group’s charge.