With the Mumbai civic polls less than a fortnight away, the Shiv Sena is turning on the heat on its friend-turned-foe Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) by giving indications that it might give a jolt to the Devendra Fadnavis-led Maharashtra government with a mass resignation of its ministers.
Party sources say the ministers could be asked to submit their resignation to Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray ahead of the February 21 elections.
Shiv Sena ministers in the state government met chief minister Devendra Fadnavis late on Wednesday night primarily to give a memorandum demanding a loan waiver for Maharashtra’s farmers.
However, on their way out of the chief minister’s official bungalow, Varsha in South Mumbai’s Malabar Hill, the ministers also brandished resignation letters, which they said they have kept ready in their pockets, before the media.
Transport minister Diwakar Raote said, “All of us have been carrying our resignation letters in our pockets. We are only waiting for orders from the Shiv Sena chief to submit them and pull out of the government, and we will put in our papers.”
Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray on Wednesday said he needs a breathing period to take an informed decision about whether to continue his party’s support to the BJP, indicating a decision is likely only after the civic polls.
However, there is a likelihood of the ministers submitting their resignation letters to Thackeray on February 18, the day of his last public address for campaigning for the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) polls, to put the BJP in a bind close on the heels of elections.
Party top brass also thinks such a move would also generate sympathy among Sena’s traditional voter, the party sources say. However, it would be Thackeray who would decide if the Sena should pull out of the government in Maharashtra or continue.
The Shiv Sena had pulled a similar stunt before the elections to the municipal corporation of Kalyan-Dombivli, Mumbai’s satellite city falling in the urban agglomeration of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, in 2015. Shiv Sena minister Eknath Shinde publicly tendered his resignation from the government in a rally on the last day of campaigning for the polls, which the BJP and Shiv Sena contested separately in a shrill highly-competitive fight.
Shinde’s resignation grabbed eyeballs across the state and built up pressure, after which Thackeray rejected it, but only after warning that the Sena may be forced to withdraw from the government if the Fadnavis government does not mend its ways.