The Uddhav Thackeray faction of Shiv Sena, reduced to a minority in the Maharashtra assembly, has appointed a new Chief Whip for the Lok Sabha, fearing revolt by party MPs. Senior party leader Sanjay Raut wrote a letter to the Lok Sabha Speaker on Wednesday and informed him that Rajan Vichare has been appointed the Chief Whip, replacing Bhawna Gawli.
The spread of the revolt among the MPs will be a huge disadvantage to the Sena, which has 19 members in the Lok Sabha and three in the Rajya Sabha,
Following a revolt by Eknath Shinde last month, Uddhav Thackeray lost 40 of his 55 MLAs and subsequently, power in the state.
Last week, he stepped down from the post of the Chief Minister. A day later, the Shinde faction officially joined hands with the BJP and staked claim to form government, which sailed through the majority test in the assembly on Monday.
In the majority test in the assembly held earlier this week, the Eknath Shinde camp received 164 votes in the 288-member assembly, way above the simple majority mark of 144. Only 99 MLAs voted against it -- down from the 107 votes the Opposition scraped up during the voting for the Speaker's post on Sunday.
The new alliance has already picked a Speaker and a Chief Whip in Maharashtra Assembly. They have also appealed to disqualify MLAs from Team Thackeray for defying the Whip during the trust vote in the assembly.
Mr Shinde has claimed that his faction is the real Shiv Sena, on basis of two-thirds majority. Making the claim first in the Supreme Court, he had said Uddhav Thackeray as the leader of a "hopeless minority" trying to cling onto power.
He is yet to take the claim to the Election Commission, which alone can arbitrate in the matter. The Thackeray faction has been there first – writing to the Commission to retain the party's name and election symbol.
Despite the revolt of the MLAs, Mr Thackeray is still thought to have the support of the grassroot-level workers and the people.