Thursday, Jun 06, 2002
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By Mahesh Vijapurkar
They are said to be somewhere within Maharashtra but they could be moved again if required. After the earlier infamous trip organised by Gujarat's Shankersinh Waghela, this would perhaps be the first such "journey to safety'' and, for Maharashtra's politics, quite unprecedented. Of course, so far, it did not have such a fragile coalition nor such narrow numerical differences between the two sides.
The NCP, while confirming this, did not disclose the destination, adding that some "senior Ministers are with them'' as escorts. This, the source told The Hindu, was less out of fears about the intent of their MLAs and more because "they themselves wanted to be insulated.'' Only a few trusted, senior partymen, most of them involved in damage control and strategy execution, are in Mumbai.
The trigger, it appears, was a call from one NCP MLA who told the party bosses that he was being threatened "and did not know what to do.'' The source declined to name the MLA but said "we do not want to take chances.'' The rival political parties "are harassing our chaps,'' he said.
This evening, Gopinath Munde, BJP's pointsman conceded that one of the NCP MLAs who had withdrawn support to the Government yesterday Vinayak Kore, a technocrat and co-operative movement leader went back on it but "despite that, he is now in our custody. What matters is we have the man.''
It was with great difficulty that the NCP managed to wrest him back to their turf and secure a letter of withdrawal backing out from yesterday's stand only to find him later at the residence of Nitin Gadkari, the BJP's Leader of Opposition in the Council, talking to the television crews. That put the NCP on the job. Earlier, six independents who had switched sides yesterday and moved towards the BJP-Sena combine, have been put up in a suburban resort under the watchful eyes of their party workers. More may be moved that way soon as they if they move towards the BJP-Sena. Mr. Munde said earlier that "some 11 NCP MLAs are keen to come over but do not want to disclose their identities; they would be harassed."
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