By Quaid Najmi
Mumbai, Jun 28 (IANS): In an apparent softening of stance, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, who is also the Shiv Sena President, on Tuesday appealed to the rebel group camping in Guwahati to return and hold discussions, but rebel leader and state minister Eknath Shinde indirectly spurned the latest overtures.
"Many of you are in contact with us and are still emotionally connected with the Shiv Sena. The families of many have also got in touch with us and conveyed your sentiments to us," said Thackeray.
He assured that as the head of the Sena family, he respected their views and made it clear from his heart that till date "nobody is out of the party" though the (rebels) are stuck in Guwahati with all kinds of speculation.
"I appeal to you all… Come before me, let's remove all the misconceptions in the minds of the people and the Shiv Sainiks," Thackeray appealed.
The CM said if they all sit together, they can definitely come up with a solution to the political imbroglio even as he cautioned them against falling prey to any kind of wrong measures, hinting at a possible tie-up with the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party.
He made it clear that the respect and dignity the Shiv Sena accorded to them, they can never get that privilege anywhere else.
"Come in front of me and present your views, let's work out a solution. I am still worried about you," concluded Thackeray, as the worsening crisis threatened the survival of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government of Shiv Sena-Nationalist Congress Party-Congress.
Hours later, Shinde hit back at Thackeray, his son Aditya Thackeray and the party's chief spokesperson Sanjay Raut in a sharp tweet.
"On one hand your son (state minister Aditya Thackeray) and spokesperson (MP Sanjay Raut) called the revered Balasaheb Thackeray's Shiv Sainiks pigs, gutter-muck, dogs, cattle, morons, zombies, and even brought in their fathers, and on the other hand, they are making a call to save the anti-Hindutva MVA by trying to get back the very same MLAs…What does this mean," Shinde asked.
This was the third direct appeal made by the CM to the rebels since the party's crisis exploded on the night of June 21-22.
The ruling MVA plunged into turmoil when around 39 Sena MLAs and 11 others sneaked out to Gujarat and then to Assam as part of the rebel faction herded by Shinde.
On previous calls for rapprochement from the Sena side, Shinde has categorically demanded that first the CM should quit the MVA alliance and join a BJP-led government in the interest of the people of the state, Hindutva and safeguarding the future of the Sena threatened by the NCP-Congress partnership.
Earlier on Tuesday, Shinde even challenged the Sena leadership to "name the rebel MLAs" who are reportedly in touch with the party top brass in Mumbai.
"They are deliberately spreading such misinformation, and misleading the people and the Shiv Sainiks. We are with the Sena and are followers of Balasaheb Thackeray whose Hindutva we are carrying forward," declared Shinde.
The rebuttal came in response to Aditya Thackeray and Raut's repeated assertions that around 20 MLAs who went to the 48-strong rebel camp are in contact with them and would vote for the Sena upon return.
While the BJP has decided to adopt a cautious wait-and-watch policy, the Shinde camp continues to hold strategic meetings in the Guwahati hotel though formal movements are yet to start amid speculations that around a dozen Sena MPs are likely to raise a banner of revolt.