Agriculture minister Dada Bhuse and former minister Sanjay Rathod reached Guwahati from Surat to join Shinde late on Thursday. After they reached Guwahati, Shinde’s group is believed to have 37 Sena MLAs, apart from 7 other Independents (total 44) in Guwahati. Efforts to bring down the MVA government and form a BJP-led government would gather momentum on Friday. People close to the Shinde camp said that the letter would be sent by Friday, on the Sena letterhead, with signatures of at least 37 MLAs, apart from seven Independents who have been supporting the MVA government.
If Shinde’s faction withdraws support, the governor will have to ask chief minister Uddhav Thackeray to prove his majority. However, the Shinde camp is wary of ‘pressure’ on MLAs and ‘allurement’ when they return to Mumbai from Guwahati, where they are currently staying. Shinde, therefore, is unlikely to hand over the letter personally to the governor, according to party insiders.
On its part, BJP has been quietly roping in Independents into its fold. The party has tried to distance itself from the Sena rebellion, although the rebels have used police security of Gujarat and Assam, both administered by BJP, during the toppling game. BJP ‘attached’ Vinod Aggarwal, the Gondiya independent MLA to the party on Thursday. Behind closed doors, it seemed to be bolstering its numbers. Independent MLA Geeta Jain, a former BJP member, met with Fadnavis on Thursday. She is ‘attached’ to the Shiv Sena after she extended support to the MVA government in Maharashtra in 2019.
The Uddhav Thackeray camp has 17 MLAs as of now. It has been losing MLAs steadily since the crisis began. The biggest jolt for Uddhav Thackeray was Sena stronghold Dadar MLA Sada Sarvankar joining the Shinde camp on Thursday morning.
In an important development, Deputy Speaker Narhari Zirwal recognized Sena MLA Ajay Chaudhary as the new chief of the SSLP. The move by Zirwal might see the matter ending up in court with the Shinde camp writing to Zirwal and likely to challenge it.