This Article is From Jun 29, 2022

As Camp Shinde Relocates To Goa, A Look At Its Guwahati Benefits

From Guwahati, Eknath Shinde made his agenda clear: that the Shiv Sena is now in his custody because 40 of its 55 MLAs are with him.

As Camp Shinde Relocates To Goa, A Look At Its Guwahati Benefits

The Shiv Sena rebels, who were camping in Guwahati, departed for Goa today.


There was a bit of a false start this afternoon for the Shiv Sena MLAs lodged in Assam for over a week - just as they were readying to check out of their Guwahati hotel, they were informed of a change of plans. Their departure to Goa stood delayed. The reason was explained by one of their senior leaders in an interview to NDTV.

"We will wait for the verdict," said Deepak Kesarkar. He was referring to the hearing scheduled for 5 pm in the Supreme Court. What happens there will decide if the MLAs are successful in their take down attempt of Uddhav Thackeray as both Chief Minister of Maharashtra and as President of the party founded by his father.

The squad finally departed for Goa - by chartered flight - around 7 pm. A hotel in the coastal state - again, a five-star - has 70 rooms booked for them, said sources.

The cohort, who have appointed Eknath Shinde as their chief, arrived in Assam just over a week ago - also on a chartered plane. They were settled into the Radisson Blu hotel under the careful watch of local BJP ministers. By this time, it was clear that if Mr Shinde was the captain of this team of rebels, it was the BJP that was the coach.

From Guwahati, Mr Shinde made his agenda clear: that the Sena is now in his custody because 40 of its 55 MLAs are with him, that the Sena must end its current alliance with the Congress and Sharad Pawar; it must reignite its earlier partnership with the BJP; and that Mr Thackeray must prove his majority in the state assembly.

Over the eight days of Camp Shinde in Guwahati, the MLAs were kept safely out of reach. BJP ministers visited them but apart from that, they were clustered in a bio-bubble to ensure there were no attempts to stray back to Mr Thackeray's greatly-dwarfed team. They didn't leave the hotel once till this morning, when they rode a bus to pray at the famous Kamakhya temple.  

During their quarantine, sources said, they asked often for Rajinigandha Paan Masala to be supplied; many of them, unprepared for a stay of this length, needed clothes and shoes and "support staff" were assigned to provide these. The best Assam teas were served, and a cook from Maharashtra was flown in on one of the many special flights that brought new additions to Mr Shinde's entourage. Through the last week, the count grew everyday, dealing severe whiplash for Mr Thackeray.

Mr  Shinde, was, till the launch of his revolt, a senior minister in Mr Thackeray's government and party. If the rebels remain united, and pool with the BJP, they can, along with a handful of Independents, bring down the current government.  

Team Thackeray - adding upto just 15 MLAs including 4 ministers -has asked the Supreme Court to over-rule any moves that call for him to prove his majority right now in the Maharashtra Assembly.

Those moves were put into motion last night with a BJP congregation, led by Devendra Fadnavis, who hopes to return as Maharashtra Chief Minister. The BJP team visited Governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari to ask that Mr Thackeray undergo a floor test urgently because his support has shrunk to well below the safety mark. The Governor said the vote should take place tomorrow- a day's notice is grossly insufficient, Mr Thackeray's lawyers argued in court. They have also said that a vote cannot be held because the Supreme Court has yet to decide on whether 16 rebel MLAs should be disqualified for anti-party activities; judges set a date of July 16 to further hear that case. Till that verdict is known, Team Thackeray says, a vote is unconstitutional.

Mr Shinde and the first batch of rebels left Mumbai in a bus in the middle of the night over a week ago. They were escorted to a five-star in Surat by the Gujarat police, but after Mr Thackeray's aides succeeded in meeting them, they were hastily dispatched to Guwahati.

"We are so grateful to them," Mr Kesarkar told NDTV today of the assistance provided by BJP leaders in Assam, "we have been hosted very thoughtfully and graciously here. When we arrived, we did not know of the extent of the floods in the state. We have given a cheque of 51 lakhs to the Chief Minister's Relief Fund."

There has been resounding criticism of the Assam government's attention to Camp Shinde at a time when thousands of villages are submerged under water. Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma told NDTV a few days ago, "We have nothing to do with the Maharastra MLAs staying in Guwahati. We are focused on flood management, our people know our attention is on floods and I am touring flood affected areas every day."

"We will try to reach Maharashtra whenever it happens, we will come there," Mr Kesarkar told NDTV, making it clear that the bio-bubble in Guwahati would move to Mumbai just in time for the vote. That helps keep the team impervious to overtures from Mr Thackeray, vital to keeping the revolt against him intact.

Last evening, Mr Thackeray made a second public appeal to the rebels, urging them to return to home base so they could talk face-to-face. "You are still my family, let's talk it out," he said.