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Mumbai: Uddhav Thackeray gathered the Shiv Sena — or the part that he still commands — at its office on Monday evening and dared the new government led by party rebel Eknath Shinde to mid-term elections. This came hours after the Team Shinde-BJP coalition proved its majority comfortably as some more Shiv Sena MLAs crossed over to the new government.NCP boss Sharad Pawar had yesterday told his party to be ready for mid-terms polls as he predicted the new government won’t last until 2024, when the next assembly elections are due.   Mr Thackeray — who resigned as Chief Minister last Wednesday as the mutiny pushed the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress out of power —  did not speak to the media after a meeting with district unit heads today. A statement by the party later said that Mr Thackeray, in his speech, told them to stay together if they wanted to put up a fight.”This is BJP’s ploy to end the Shiv Sena; I dare them to hold mid-term polls in the state. Instead of playing all these games, we will go to the court of people,” the statement said quoting Mr Thackeray, “If we are wrong, people of the state will send us home; and if you (BJP and Shinde group) are wrong, people will send you home.”While the new government proved it has the numbers in the House, the battle isn’t over on two key fronts — the legal fight over which is the “real” Shiv Sena, and the one about perception as to who represents the Sena’s ethos. Earlier in the day, Eknath Shinde said his team and the BJP will together win more than 200 seats in the 288-seat House next time. Mr Shinde has repeatedly said that under Uddhav Thackeray the Sena drifted away from the Hindutva ideology of its founder Bal Thackeray, Uddhav Thackeray’s father. But Team Thackeray has called this argument an alibi and termed the Shinde group traitors.The Shiv Sena and BJP had together got majority in 2019, but a dispute over leadership broke them up. Mr Thackeray became the chief minister after forming the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) alliance with the NCP and Congress.In his statement today, Mr Thackeray accused the Eknath Shinde and the BJP’s recent act is “an assault on Babasaheb BR Ambedkar’s Constitution”.The Supreme Court will next hear the ongoing case over possible disqualification of the Sena rebels on July 11. That matter has got further complicated as the new government won the Speaker’s post in the election yesterday.Both Sena camps issued diverging whips — technically, binding directions to MLAs — for the trust vote too. Going against such a whip can lead to disqualification, but that’s another potential court case. Dividing the party in the assembly — with two-thirds of the MLAs — looks easier for Mr Shinde than claiming the party altogether, for which he will need the same strength within its units. The final decision on that will be the Election Commission’s.

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