Ahmedabad: In an operation reportedly engineered by Gujarat BJP President CR Paatil, along with his daughter Dharti Deore, the Dhule Zila Parishad chief in Maharashtra, as many as 29 Shiv Sena MLAs led by Eknath Shinde are holed up in a plush hotel in Surat.
All of them drove down to Le Meridien Hotel on Dumas Beach Road in installments, beginning at 2 am on Tuesday. Hotel sources confided that at least 30 rooms were booked by the MLAs two days ago. “They got all rooms vacated at the instructions of CR Paatil’s assistant, and the local police conducted a recce, too,” a source at the hotel said, pleading anonymity.
The Shiv Sena on Tuesday afternoon sent three confidantes of Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to hold negotiations with the rebels, but they were reportedly not even given an audience by Shinde. Sanjay Kute reached the hotel at around 2.15 pm, while Milind Narvekar and Ravindra Phatak joined subsequently. They weren’t allowed inside the hotel gates for over 20 minutes, and were later just sent back.
The Gujarat police cordoned off the hotel, with Joint Commissioner of Police Sharad Singhal overseeing the entire movement. The verification process was so rigid that only guests who had booked rooms were allowed inside, and that too with identity proof.
Shinde reached late Monday night. According to the hotel registers, 19 MLAs reached at 2 am, five at 6 am, three around 8 am, and two on Tuesday afternoon. Sources claimed a couple of others could join later, too.
In a curious case, Shiv Sena legislator Nitin Deshmukh, who had also reached the hotel along with the rebels, suddenly fell ill and was hospitalised at the New Civil Hospital in Surat. In Akola, Balapur legislator’s wife Pranjali filed a police case that her husband was “missing”.