Mumbai: Amid raging speculation of a vertical split in Shiv Sena Lok Sabha MPs from the Uddhav Thackeray-led faction to Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’s rebel Sena camp, Sena MP from Kolhapur district Sanjay Mandlik on Sunday strongly hinted at joining the rebel Shinde’s faction soon.
A meeting of Sanjay Mandlik supporters, led by his son Rohit Mandlik, was held in Kolhapur on Sunday wherein they urged the MP to join hands with the rebel Shinde camp.
According to sources, the supporters of the Sena’s Kolhapur MP stated that Mandlik should join forces with Chief Minister Shinde and the new Sena (Shinde camp)- Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government considering the smooth allocation of development funds for the district and also taking into account the strategic imperative of the 2024 general election. Sanjay Mandlik is expected to announce his decision soon.
Sources also said that the other Sena MP in Kolhapur, Dhairyasheel Mane, who won the Hatkanangale Lok Sabha seat by defeating farmer leader Raju Shetti in the 2019 general election – was also contemplating allying with the rebel Shinde faction.
Ever since Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’s intra-party revolt last month, which saw him along with 39 other Sena MLAs breakaway from the Thackeray led Sena faction and topple the Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, there have been reports of many of the 19 Lok Sabha Sena MPs being in touch with the rebel Shinde camp.
Although the numbers vary according to sources, it is assumed that at least 12 of the 19 MPs may soon desert the Uddhav Thackeray camp to join the Eknath Shinde camp and the new government.
Among the Lok Sabha MPs, Vinayak Raut and Arvind Sawant are considered to be staunch supporters of Uddhav Thackeray while Sanjay Raut, Anil Desai and Priyanka Chaturvedi are the Uddhav loyalists in the Rajya Sabha.
Recently, speaking to a vernacular news channel, former MVA Minister Uday Samant, who switched over to the rebel camp, claimed that 12 to 14 MPs of the 19 Lok Sabha lawmakers would certainly come over to the rebel Shinde camp very soon.
It may be recalled that last week, seven of these MPs skipped a meeting called by Uddhav Thackeray to discuss the party’s stance over the Presidential election. They included – Sanjay Mandlik along with Kalyan MP Dr. Shrikant Shinde – the son of current Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, Yavatmal MP Bhavana Gawali, Hingoli MP Hemant Patil, Parbhani MP Sanjay Jadhav, Ramtek MP Krupal Tumane and the MP from Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Kalaben Delkar.
Recently, the Uddhav Thackeray faction removed Bhavana Gawali from her post as the Shiv Sena’s chief whip in the Lok Sabha after she wrote a letter to Uddhav Thackeray where she expressed her support for Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’s revolt.
A number of supporters of Bhavana Gawali and former minister and rebel MLA Sanjay Rathod, have already switched over to Eknath Shinde’s camp. Former chief minister Uddhav Thackeray is finding it hard to stem the flow of MLAs and possibly now the Lok Sabha MPs from his faction to that of Eknath Shinde’s group. The Thackeray camp still claims that ordinary Shiv Sainiks are still with the former chief minister.