A day after Uddhav Thackeray's emotional appeal to Shiv Sena rebels threatening to upend his leadership and the Maharashtra government, an MLA in the Eknath Shinde camp has written a lacerating letter accusing the Maharashtra Chief Minister for "shutting his doors to them" and neglecting his own party leaders for years.
Uddhav Thackeray, who has often been accused of inaccessibility by his MLAs, had yesterday said in a Facebook livestream that he was moving out of his official Chief Minister's home "Varsha" and returning to "Matoshree", the family home that is the unofficial headquarters of the Shiv Sena.
He urged MLAs to come to him and say it to his face if they wanted him out as Chief Minister.
But this courtesy was never extended in the past two-and-a-half years, rebel MLA Sanjay Shirsat wrote in his letter shared by Eknath Shinde.
"Yesterday we were pleased to see people at Varsha. We were denied entry to the Chief Minister's house for 2.5 years. We were made to wait for hours outside his gates," wrote Sanjay Shirsat, who is part of the rebel group staying at a Guwahati five-star hotel.
"Shinde-ji's doors were always open to us," he wrote.
Mr Shirsat said he had to stand for hours outside the Chief Minister's official residence Varsha, which Uddhav Thackeray vacated last night after saying he was "ready to quit anytime" but stopping short of resigning.
"Chanakya would always trump us," said Mr Shirsat, referring to Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut whose rise to prominence caused resentment among many who have now switched to the rebel camp.
The MLA also alleged that he and others were stopped from going to Ayodhya at the last minute, with their baggage already checked in at the Mumbai airport and their boarding about to start.
"When Aaditya Thackeray went to Ayodhya then why were we stopped? You told many MLAs urging them not to go to Ayodhya. We were at Mumbai airport, our bags were checked in and we were about to board when Mr Shinde called us and said MLAs should return. He told us the Chief Minister had said MLAs should not go to Ayodhya. Why weren't we allowed a darshan of Ram Lalla," wrote Mr Shirsat.
He also claimed when Sena MLAs like him were stopped from entering the Chief Minister's home, allies Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress routinely visited Mr Thackeray.
"Today we are with Shinde with the belief that his home, which has always been open to us in difficult circumstances, will remain so. Yesterday, whatever you said made us emotional. But I did not get answers to basic questions. So, in order to convey my feelings to you, I had to write this emotional letter," the rebel MLA said.
Mr Shinde's rebel group now has 40 MLAs, enough to split the party without disqualification under the anti-defection law and far more than Uddhav Thackeray has.
Even after Mr Thackeray's appeal, three more MLAs flew to Guwahati and joined Mr Shinde.
Sanjay Raut, who is with the Chief Minister, rubbished the rebel's charge. "Shiv Sena MLAs didn't come to Varsha. Initially there were Covid restrictions. If you talk about the government at that time then it is inhuman. You (Eknath Shinde) were meant to talk to the MLAs - we can't do everything."