Chartered plane & 2 MLAs who ‘tried to flee’


A CHARTERED aircraft, three luxury buses, a nine-seater plane, a hotel about a kilometre from the airport — and at least 32 rebel MLAs from Maharashtra.

There were the key elements in play for most of Tuesday and the night that followed as the political crisis in the Shiv Sena and the MVA government in Maharashtra played out at Surat in BJP-ruled Gujarat where Sena Minister Eknath Shinde had housed his flock of rebel MLAs, including Independents. Sources told The Indian Express that the BJP’s pointsperson in Surat, Paresh Patel, “took charge of the situation” to ensure that the breakaway group of MLAs was flown out of Surat to Guwahati early on Wednesday morning as at least two MLAs had “tried to escape”.

Patel is the standing committee chairman of Surat Municipal Corporation and close aide of Gujarat BJP chief C R Paatil.

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The drama continued on Wednesday when Independent MLA from Jalgaon, Chandrakant Patil, flew to Surat to travel onward to Guwahati with four more MLAs — two from Shiv Sena and two Independents. Sources identified the two Independent MLAs as Manjula Gavit and Gopal Dalvi, and one of the two Sena MLAs as Yogesh Kadam. “A nine-seater plane was arranged for them to fly to Guwahati,” said sources.

Earlier, on Tuesday, at least 30 Sena MLAs and two Independents were holed up inside the Le Meridien in Surat under tight police cover. As night fell, a chartered SpiceJet aircraft was ready at the airport. And about 30 minutes past midnight, three luxury buses pulled up at the hotel to take Shinde and his MLAs to the airport and onward to Guwahati.

“Precautions were taken so that no MLA could escape,” said sources. As the buses pulled out, some Congress leaders, including former corporator Aslam Cyclewala, gathered near the hotel and shouted slogans against the BJP. Surat continued to figure in the news through most of Wednesday as well after one of the Sena MLAs with Shinde, Nitin Deshmukh, who was admitted in the New Civil hospital on Tuesday, reached Nagpur from Guwahati and levelled serious allegations against the city’s doctors and the police.

“(After reaching Surat on Tuesday night), I came out from the hotel early in the morning at 3 am, and tried to escape. After coming to the main road, I was searching for a vehicle to get a lift. Meanwhile, a group of about 100 policemen came to the spot and took me to the New Civil hospital where I was admitted. Later they spread a message that I had suffered a heart attack. I was sedated in the hospital so that I could not escape,” Deshmukh told reporters.

Deshmukh’s friend Dilip Bavche told The Indian Express that he flew with Deshmukh and the other MLAs to Guwahati. Bavche had come to Surat with another friend on Tuesday to meet Deshmukh after the MLA’s wife filed a report at the Akola police station that her husband had gone missing.

“Our flight landed in Guwahati early in the morning (Wednesday) and we moved away from the queue of MLAs coming out from the airport. We boarded another flight from Guwahati at around 10 am and reached Nagpur. Nitin Deshmukh spoke to Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and shared all the details,” Bavche told The Indian Express.

New Civil Hospital Medical Superintendent Dr Ganesh Govekar said: “The allegations are baseless. Deshmukh is lying.”





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