For rebels Sena MLAs, NCP a bigger problem than Congress

IN THE ongoing turmoil in the Shiv Sena, one thing that has come out in the open is that the party has a problem when it comes to getting along with Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) – its alliance partner in the state’s ruling Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government.

A few MLAs belonging to the rebel group led by Eknath Shinde made it clear that they don’t have a problem dealing with the Congress – the third alliance partner – even as they are at odds with the NCP across the state.

“We don’t have a problem with our leadership (with the CM) but we have a problem in dealing with the Congress and the NCP, more so with the NCP,” Sena MLA Sanjay Shirsat told a Marathi new channel on Tuesday morning from Guwahati where the rebel group is camping.

Echoing his views, another rebel Sena MLA, cabinet minister Sandeepan Bhumre, said, “Congress is not much of a problem. But, we don’t get along with the NCP.” The MLAs complained that they were not getting the development funds required for their constituencies.

Bhumre said, “Our main demand is that our work should be done; we should get development fund for our constituencies.”

Bhumre said the Sena MLAs were repeatedly facing harassment from the Congress and the NCP. “We had repeatedly told the CM about the hurdles we were facing,” said Bhumre, who had once said that he would “jump from seventh floor of a building” to prove his loyalty to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.

A former Shiv Sena MP said, “Take the case of Pune district: the Shiv Sena is strong in rural areas. The BJP hardly has a presence in rural parts. Our fight here is with the NCP. In the next elections, many of our Sainiks might not get to even contest. So what is the use of teaming up with the NCP?”

Though elections are far away, the former MP said that the Sena MLAs and even ministers are hard-pressed to get funds sanctioned for their constituencies as the respective ministries are held by NCP leaders.

In Maval Lok Sabha in Pune district, where Shiv Sena’s Shrirang Barne has won twice with huge margin, the NCP is believed to be grooming Parth Pawar. “The NCP is determined that Parth Pawar should get the ticket from Maval in the next Lok Sabha election. That means a proven winner will have to lose out if Ajit Pawar puts his foot down and if
Sena remains in alliance with the NCP,” said a Sena MP. MVA minister Bachchu Kadu, who heads the Prahar Janshakti, which had aligned with the Shiv Sena but has turned rebel now, told a news channel: “I don’t have any personal issues…The MLAs had issues regarding distribution of development funds. There was gross inequality in distribution of development required by MLAs in their constituencies…Shiv Sena MLAs felt neglected…”

NCP spokesperson Ankush Kakade denied that there was friction between the NCP and the Sena. “Actually, those who have lost election to NCP candidates are making all the noise. The NCP and the Sena have very cordial relations, both at the top and at lower levels as well.”

Farmer leader Raju Shetti, whose Swambhimani Paksha had aligned with the MVA, said that from the reactions that are emerging from the rebel MLAs, it is clear that the NCP has not treated its ally with respect. “The NCP has not treated a friendly party with respect. NCP leaders seemed to be power hungry, the way they have behaved is not good for democracy,” he said.

On the other hand, Congress spokesperson Gopal Tiwari said, “The Congress shares a very good rapport with the Sena. Sena leaders like the CM and Sanjay Raut have repeatedly said that top Congress leaders are in touch with them regularly. At local or grassroots level too, Congress has no quarrel with the Sena.”

Meanwhile, Kadu said 33 Shiv Sena MLAs and three independent legislators are with them.

Stating that they will be forming a separate group in the state Assembly, Kadu claimed that in the next two or three days, the figure of MLAs who would join them would go up to 50. “These include those from the Shiv Sena, independents and Congress party as well,” he told a Marathi news channel. When asked whether BJP leaders from Maharashtra were in touch with them, Kadu replied in the affirmative. “Te chaloo ahey… (that’s going on). Sanjay
Kute of the BJP is with us,” he said.

Kadu said he had called up Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Tuesday. “The CM sounded upset…he said you come back, we will discuss (the issue),” he said.

Kadu denied allegations by Sena spokesperson Raut that a few of the MLAs were forcibly being taken to Surat and even beaten up. “No, that’s not true. We are all together, happy and here on our own free will,” he said.
Bhumre said, “There are 35-36 MLAs in our group. We are all together under the leadership of Eknath Shinde. We will follow whatever decision he takes. Many people have called me; I told them that I was with Shinde saheb. We have accepted his leadership,” he said. “We will remain with Shiv Sena…” he added.

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