A chartered aircraft, three luxury buses, and a hotel about a kilometre from the airport — it has been a costly affair for Eknath Shinde to get the rebel MLAs out of Maharashtra so as to try and break the Shiv Sena away from the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi coalition with the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
The drama started Tuesday and the night after as Minister Eknath Shinde moved out of Maharashtra with his flock of rebel MLAs, including Independents, and travelled to Surat in BJP-ruled Gujarat. As night fell, a chartered SpiceJet aircraft was ready at the airport. And about 30 minutes past midnight, three luxury buses pulled up at the hotel to take Shinde and his MLAs to the airport and onward to Guwahati.
A chartered flight from Surat to Guwahati is not a cheap affair. Most charter services, like Jet Set Go, peg the cost of an Embraer ERJ-135LR aircraft that is capable of carrying over 30 people to be over Rs 50 lakh for a Surat to Guwahati flight. Added to this is also the cost of hotels and other transport arrangements, besides other expenses that may not be known so far.
Eknath Shinde and the 40 MLAs, including Independents, he is camping with have demanded that the Shiv Sena break its alliance with the Congress and the NCP, saying that the party’s leaders have suffered the most in the last two-and-a-half years because of the coalition’s rule. Some of the rebels have said that the Sena should tie up with “natural ally” BJP to form a new government. The MLAs have booked the hotel in Guwahati for a week, indicating they are prepared for the long haul.
The Shiv Sena, meanwhile, said it would consider exiting the Maharashtra ruling alliance but only if the rebels returned “in 24 hours”. “We are ready to walk out of the MVA (Maha Vikas Aghadi) government in Maharashtra, but party rebels should return to Mumbai (from Guwahati) in 24 hours,” Sanjay Raut, who is Shiv Sena’s chief spokesperson, said.