Putting rest to speculation, Shiv Sena’s deputy leader Priyanka Chaturvedi on Monday evening claimed that at least a total of 158 MLAs of the Sena, Congress and NCP were present at the show of strength meeting held at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Mumbai.
“Those interested in head count/ exact numbers, here goes: Total 158 present at Hyatt meeting today NCP: Zirval ji just reached, Dharmarao Atram ji is in the hospital unwell but in touch Cong: Prithviraj Chavan ji in Delhi, Sunil Kedar ji in Nagpur for ZP elections,” she tweeted.
Those interested in head count/ exact numbers, here goes:— Priyanka Chaturvedi (@priyankac19) November 25, 2019
Total 158 present at Hyatt meeting today
NCP: Zirval ji just reached, Dharmarao Atram ji is in the hospital unwell but in touch
Cong: Prithviraj Chavan ji in Delhi, Sunil Kedar ji in Nagpur for ZP elections #WeAre162
Chaturvedi’s tweet comes after BJP sources claimed that there were not more than 120 MLAs from the three parties present at the meeting.
A day before the Supreme Court rules on floor test for Maharashtra government led by Devendra Fadnavis whose swearing-in has been challenged by the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress combine, the three parties reportedly paraded 162 MLAs the luxury hotel.
At the event, the MLAs took oath to not fall prey to any inducements by the BJP. NCP MLA Dhananjay Munde said 162 MLAs of the three parties were present at the event.
The Maharashtra Legislative Assembly has the strength of 288 MLAs where the halfway mark is 145. NCP chief Sharad Pawar told the gathering of MLAs that he would personally ensure that none of them loses membership for voting against the BJP during floor test in the Assembly.
Pawar addressed a joint meeting of the MLAs of 'Maha Vikas Aghadi' comprising the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress at the five-star hotel. The NCP chief said BJP has tried unconstitutional ways to gain power in Goa and some other states. "Maharashtra is not Goa and it is time to teach them a lesson," Pawar said.
"A misinformation is being spread that Ajit Pawar is the NCP's legislature party leader who would issue a whip to all (NCP) MLAs to vote for the BJP (in floor test). It is being said that whoever defies the whip would lose his membership of the House," Pawar said.
The NCP chief added that he had consulted several constitutional and legal experts and also gone through previous instances on the issue of technicalities.
"I have come to the conclusion that Ajit Pawar, who was removed from his position (as the NCP legislature party leader for joining hands with the BJP in forming a government), has no legal right to issue a whip to MLAs," Pawar said.
"I personally take the responsibility that your membership of the House will not become null and void. People who have acquired power illegally have to be removed now," Pawar said apparently referring to the BJP. Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, speaking at the event, asked the BJP to "make way" for the Sena-NCP-Congress alliance to rule Maharashtra.
Congress leader Ashok Chavan said, "We are more than 162, not just 162. We all will be a part of the government. I thank Sonia Gandhi who allowed for this alliance to stop BJP."
"The governor should invite us to form government," he said. Responding to the show of strength by the three-party alliance, BJP MLA Ashish Shelar said a majority in the Assembly cannot be proved by such "identification parades".
"While they (the Sena, NCP and Congress) might be having a photograph and a photographer, but it is the BJP which will win the photo finish (race to power) in floor test," he said.
The BJP, which has maximum 105 MLAs, is counting on the support of some Independents and Others, apart from Ajit Pawar. Meanwhile, NCP MLA Jitendra Awhad hit back at Shelar saying, "We have not indulged in any childish act, but it's (alliance of the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress) is a consensual marriage with blessings from elders"
(With PTI inputs)