- NCP chief Sharad Pawar called a meeting of his lawmakers
- He wanted to take stock of how many had switched loyalties
- Senior NCP leader Dhananjay Munde made dramatic entry into meeting
Hours after the BJP's Devendra Fadnavis took oath as chief minister of Maharashtra with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP)'s Ajit Pawar on Saturday, NCP chief Sharad Pawar called a meeting of his lawmakers to take stock of how many had switched loyalties. Dhananjay Munde, a senior NCP leader who was believed to be among the defectors along with Ajit Pawar, made a dramatic entry into the meeting held at the YB Chavan centre in Mumbai, the NCP headquarters.
The NCP said four MLAs, including Ajit Pawar, were now missing. 50 of NCP's 54 MLAs attended the meeting; Ajit Pawar and three other MLAs were expected to come. Two lawmakers had returned in the morning.
Some of the "rebel" MLAs were being flown to Delhi by the BJP, according to a passenger manifest. Some reports said nine have been taken to Delhi -- Daulat Daroda, Narhari Zirwar, Sunil Bhusara, Dilip Bankar, Anil Patil, Nitin Pawar, Sunil Shelke, Babasaheb Patil and Sanjay Banson.
Some MLAs even went to the Mumbai airport to bring them around but returned without them.
Later, reports said Shiv Sena MLAs brought back one more NCP member to the YB Chavan centre.
The NCP won 54 MLAs in the 288-member Maharashtra assembly, finishing third after the BJP (105) and Shiv Sena (56). Last night, Sharad Pawar had said the NCP and Congress would join hands with the Shiv Sena and form a government with the Sena's Uddhav Thackeray as chief minister.
The BJP claims it has the support of all 54 MLAs of the NCP. However, Sharad Pawar said Ajit Pawar had submitted to the governor "the attendance sheet of MLAs prepared at a party meeting" as the letter of support.
The NCP chief also said some MLAs had been tricked into attending the sudden early morning oath ceremony and he paraded three of the MLAs at a press conference with Uddhav Thackeray.
The three, including Rajendra Shingne and Sandeep Kshirsagar, said they received calls from Ajit Pawar around midnight and were told to reach Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari's residence around 7 am.
"I had absolutely no idea of what was going on till I actually reached Raj Bhavan. It was only when the swearing-in ceremony started that I realized it," said Mr Shingne, a former minister and now NCP state Vice President.
To dodge the anti-defection law, at least 38 MLAs need to break away from the NCP.
With the political uncertainty, the Sena and the NCP have moved their MLAs to hotels. NCP MLAs were taken to Renaissance Hotel in Mumbai's Powai in buses last night. The Shiv Sena has moved its MLAs to Lalit Hotel in Mumbai's Andheri. The Congress, meanwhile, has moved its MLAs to JW Marriott in Mumbai. However, independent MLA Rajkumar Patel told NDTV that eight independents are staying at a hotel in Goa where the Sena MLAs are.