Seven Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) legislators have pledged their support to party leader Sharad Pawar, hours after they reportedly "rebelled" and backed Ajit Pawar, Maharashtra’s new deputy chief minister.
Dilip Bankar and Manikrao Kokate, who represent Nashik district, tweeted separately to say they were kept in dark about Ajit’s swearing-in ceremony
The MLAs said they were with the NCP and expressed solidarity Sharad Pawar. Earlier, five NCP MLAs Rajendra Shingne (Buldhana), Sandeep Kshirsagar (Beed), Sunil Shelke (Maval), Sunil Bhusara (Vikramgad), Narhari Zirwal (Dindori) and Sunil Tingre (Wadgaon-Sheri) returned to the NCP fold after attending the oath-taking ceremony.
Parli MLA Dhananjay Munde, who also is said to have attended the function at Raj Bhavan, turned up at the ongoing meeting of NCP MLAs convened by the Pawar senior.
"I have not gone against the party's position. I reached Raj Bhavan after Ajitdada Pawar told me so. Followed order as he is legislature party leader.
"I had no clue what was going to happen there. I am with the party. I will never change the decision once taken," Kokate tweeted, tagging Sharad Pawar and MP Supriya Sule.
Kokate represents Sinnar seat. Bankar, the MLA from Niphad, seconded Kokate and said he had faith in Sharad Pawar's leadership.
Bankar said he too had reached Raj Bhavan after being told to do so by Ajit Pawar and was "clueless" about what was in store there.
Earlier, at a press conference addressed by Sharad Pawar, Shingne said, "When I reached Raj Bhavan, I found 8 to 10 MLAs already there. None of us realised why we were brought there. After the swearing-in, we went to meet (Sharad) Pawar saheb," he said.
"All this happened because of some misunderstanding since Ajit Pawar had called us," he said.
Sharad Pawar had said that Ajit, by virtue of being the NCP legislature party leader, possessed the list of all the 54 MLAs with names, signatures and constituencies for internal party use.
"I presume he has submitted that list as a letter of support to the Governor. If this is true, the governor has been misled," he said.
Pawar also said the MLAs who have defected stand to lose the membership of the Assembly, and when byelections are held, the Congress-NCP-Sena alliance will ensure that they are defeated.
In the 288-member Assembly, the BJP has 105 MLAs, the Shiv Sena 56, the NCP 54 and the Congress 44. The halfway mark is 145.