Mumbai: Amid raging speculation of a split within the Shiv Sena MPs, seven of the 19 Lok Sabha MPs skipped the meeting of all the Sena MPs called by party chief and former Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray at the latter’s residence ‘Matoshree’ on Monday.
Twelve Lok Sabha MPs were present along with the two Rajya Sabha lawmakers Sanjay Raut and Priyanka Chaturvedi. The other RS MP Anil Desai, said to be a staunch supporter of the Thackeray faction, was in Delhi.
Ever since Sena leader Eknath Shinde’s intra-party revolt last month, which saw him along with 39 other Sena MLAs breakaway from the Thackeray faction and topple the Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, rumours have been rife about a significant section of Sena MPs in touch with the Shinde camp.
Those absent in today’s meeting called by Uddhav Thackeray included Kalyan MP Dr. Shrikant Shinde – the son of current Chief Minister Eknath Shinde; Yavatmal MP Bhawna Gawli; Hingoli MP Hemant Patil; Kolhapur MP Sanjay Mandlik; Parbhani MP Sanjay Jadhav, Ramtek MP Krupal Tumane; and the MP from Dadra and Nagar Haveli Kalaben Delkar.
According to sources, a rift was quite evident between the MPs present in the meeting which was to discuss the Sena’s stance on the July 18 Presidential election.
While it is believed that Sanjay Raut has urged his colleagues to vote for the opposition Presidential candidate Yashwant Sinha, a number of the MPs present wanted the party to vote for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)- led National Democratic Alliance’s candidate Draupadi Murmu.
Uddhav Thackeray has said he would announce his party’s decision over the Presidential election in the next two days. The usually vocal Sanjay Raut left the three-hour meeting without speaking to the media-persons.
Sources disclosed that BJP led NDA Presidential poll candidate Draupadi Murmu, who would be in Mumbai on July 14 as part of her campaign, could pay a courtesy call to ‘Matoshree’ if the Sena decided to announce its support for her before that.
In the past, the Shiv Sena has taken a contrarian stance vis-à-vis the Presidential election despite being a part of the BJP-led NDA when it supported the candidatures of Pratibha Patil and Pranab Mukherjee (both Congress leaders).
Meanwhile, in yet another emotional gesture, former chief minister Uddhav Thackeray has written to the remaining 15 Sena MLAs in his faction, thanking them for their support during tough times, without surrendering to the pressure of threats or offers.