The Shiv Sena's Uddhav Thackeray camp has found itself in a quandary over the Andheri polls due next month. The candidate it was hoping to field -- late MLA Ramesh Latke's wife Rutuja Latke -- might be unable to contest if her resignation is not accepted by the Mumbai civic body. The last date of filing nomination is October 14. If her resignation is not accepted within the next two days, she cannot contest.
The Thackeray faction has accused the state's ruling alliance -- the Chief Minister Eknath Shinde's faction and the BJP -- of attempting to sabotage the candidate. They have also alleged that Mrs Latke is under pressure to contest from the other side.
Sena's sitting MLA Ramesh Latke died this year, making the by-polls necessary. Rutuja Latke, his wife, is an employee of the Brihanmumbai Corporation. She has resigned her post according to election rules.
The Brihanmumbai Corporation chief denied that he is under any pressure from the government. "I can take a decision on it within 30 days. Resignation letter has been submitted on 3rd October. There is no government pressure on me," Iqbal Singh Chahal told NDTV.
Mrs Latke has gone to the Bombay High Court asking that the civic body be directed to accept her resignation. The court will hear the matter tomorrow.
"Pressure is being exerted by the Shinde faction that Rutuja Latke should fight from his camp. We have also heard that she was to be given a ministerial post. The BMC has not accepted the resignation even after more than a month," said Sena MLA Anil Parab.
Mr Parab said Mrs Latke resigned on September 2, but was told recently that her letter was not in proper format. She has given a fresh resignation letter which is yet to be accepted, he added, reported news agency Press Trust of India.
The government has also denied allegations of pressure.
"Any Municipal Corporation has its own rules regarding resignation. The government does not interfere. Balasaheb's Shiv Sena and BJP are going to contest elections together," said Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
"Eknath Shinde has not done such a thing in his life. But there are 100 examples of the lengths to which Uddhav Thackeray can go. One cannot find even one example involving Eknath Shinde," said Kiran Pawaskar, the spokesperson of the Shinde faction, which has received the temporary name of "Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena" from the Election Commission in view of the polls.
Rutuja Latke today said she has not met Mr Shinde and maintained that she will contest the bypoll on the Thackeray faction's "mashaal (flaming torch)" symbol. Asked if was under pressure, she said, "Do I look so?"
"Like my late husband, my loyalty is with Uddhav Thackeray," she was quoted as saying by PTI. While she is being fielded by the Thackeray faction – provisionally named the "Shiv Sena Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray" -- Mrs Latke is also being supported by the Congress and Sharad Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party, which makes her the Maha Vikas Aghadi candidate. Ahead of the election, Mr Thackeray has also received support from the CPI. A section dabbawallahs of Mumbai have also offered support.
The Sena versus Sena tussle started in June after Mr Shinde split the party vertically, leading 48 MLAs in a BJP-backed coup against Uddhav Thackeray, who was Chief Minister at the time. The Maha Vikas Aghadi government collapsed and Mr Shinde formed a new government with the BJP.