Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray moved back to “Matoshree” — his family home — from his official residence “Varsha” today, shortly after delivering an emotional speech for the rebels led by Eknath Shinde. Late in the evening, a huge crowd assembled outside Matoshree in a show of solidarity. Videos from the spot showed the car having trouble negotiating through the crowd. Mr Thackeray was seen getting out of the car and greeting the visitors. After exchanging civilities, they walked into the house. Mr Thackeray’s son and state minister Aaditya Thackeray was also seen greeting the party workers.
Mr Thackeray has tested positive for Covid. But his shift to the family home, strongly associated with party founder and father Balasaheb Thackeray, was seen as carrying a message.
Earlier today, delivering a Facebook live address — his first public reaction to the political crisis that engulfed his government — Mr Thackeray said, “If my own people don’t want me as Chief Minister, he should walk up to me and say so… I’m ready to resign… I am Balasaheb’s son, I am not after a post… If you want me to resign, let me resign and take all my belongings to Matoshree”.
There, however, was a rider. “I’m willing to step down, but can you promise me that the next chief minister will be from Shiv Sena?”
This was seen a direct challenge to Eknath Shinde, who has been projecting his faction as the real Shiv Sena and has been citing the Hindutva ideology of Balasaheb Thackeray, indicating that the Sena under his son was a “lite” version.
For the rebels, this is practically an impossible wish list in the event they topple Mr Thackeray’s government and help the BJP come to power.
The BJP’s refusal to offer Mr Thackeray the top post was one of the key factors that drove a wedge between the long-time allies and led to the end of the alliance.
Congress sources have claimed that the party, along with the other ally in the ruling alliance — Sharad Pawar — floated the idea of offering the top job to Mr Shinde as a way to end the impasse.
There is a buzz that the offer was made to the rebels through back-channel talks.
Earlier today, Mr Shinde and his followers stepped up their act with a letter to the Governor and Deputy Speaker in the state assembly.
The letter by 34 rebel MLAs – four of them Independents — declared Mr Shinde as their leader. In a resolution, the rebel faction said there is “enormous discontent” among the party cadre over the alliance with ideologically opposed Congress and Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party.