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Shiv Sena political turmoil: Eknath Shinde’s rebellion a farce or fact

The last month has been more or less like a roller coaster ride for Maharashtra. From the Rajya Sabha elections to the MLC elections, it has all been a great story so far for the BJP but a nightmare for MVA especially the Shiv Sena.

On the 16th of November 2019, Maharashtra was shocked as Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut had just declared an alliance with the parties which were not just opposite on the ideological spectrum but against whom the elections had been fought. 28 November 2019 was the date on which Uddhav Thackeray was sworn as the Chief Minister betraying the mandate of the citizens of Maharashtra. The BJP led by Devendra Fadnavis and Shiv Sena led by Uddhav Thackeray was the collation (mahaYUTI) for which the people had voted for. But, the opposition parties, specifically NCP were out of power for more than 5 years, which it hadn’t been since its inception in 1999. NCP had always been in coalition with INC, handling some or the other important portfolios.

Also, it was a fact that the NCP supremo was not able to digest the fact that a young politician from Nagpur had completed his 5 years in office as CM from 2014 to 2019. Considering all these circumstances, the backroom politics entered the scenario and the power hungriness to be the CM, led Shivsena into a political whirlpool, that it had not anticipated. 

The actions and the inactions

The stage was set, Uddhav Thackeray was offered the highest seat in the state and then Shiv Sena ‘Pakshapramukh’ went on to become the 19th Cheif minister of Maharashtra on a condition put forth by NCP and INC to compromise on the principles of Hindutva for which the Shiv Sainiks had even given their lives for in the past. Right from the very beginning of this government, the ‘Kadva’ or the ardent Shiv Sainik was not comfortable with the partners in this Aghadi sarkar.

They were not able to digest the fact that Shiv Sena now had to listen to the Congress, which had been its traditional political and ideological enemy since the very beginning. But, apart from all the ideological and political differences, the coalition partners, NCP and INC made sure to squeeze Shiv Sena as much as possible by not giving them the most important portfolios in the government. Home affairs, revenue, finance, PWD, water resources, and energy ministries were all distributed amongst INC (44) and NCP (53), even though they had less in legislative assembly than Shivsena (56). NCP had more cabinet ministers and ministers of state (15) than Shiv Sena (14).

The deal was not going the way Shiv Sena had anticipated. Seeing that Uddhav Thackeray had no background in governance, he was purposely kept direction less when the entire world was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The haphazardness of handling the COVID-19 pandemic did not affect the image of any other minister but that of Uddhav Thackeray took a massive hit with the traditional voters of the BJP and Shiv Sena. Right from the Sushant Singh Rajput’s case, Kangana Ranaut’s case to handling Palghar Sadhu’s case impatiently, it was all heading in the wrong direction specifically for Shiv Sena. The commoners, who saw Shiv Sena as one of the strong voices of Hindutva, started losing faith in them.

The deeds of misgovernance were endless. The sitting home minister (NCP) Anil Deshmukh, found himself stuck in the heap of corruption charges, which eventually led him to resign from the post. This sent a wrong message to commoners, again, who saw Shiv Sena Pakshapramukh Uddhav Thackarey as a leader who did not have control over his ministers. People also saw how the Shiv Sena-led government was busy protecting a lifelong Hindu hater, Dawood Ibrahim’s close aid, minority affairs minister (NCP), Nawab Malik, in a case which had heaps of evidence which guaranteed his connection to Dawood Ibrahim.

The Shiv Sainiks who were born and brought up under the leadership of Balasaheb and Anand Dighe found this a betrayal of the principles for which Shiv Sena once stood. Apart from all these things, the two parties, NCP and INC, did not stick to alliance or Aghadi, when it came to local (Sthanik Swarajya Sanstha) elections. They fought independently, in which most of the time Shiv Sena lost miserably. The common-minimum program on which the Mahavikas Aghadi was standing only benefited the other two parties. Shiv Sena started losing its ground in the areas where it held great power once. 

The problem within the party

Balasaheb Thackeray’s Shiv Sena was not just built by Balasaheb himself but by countless karyakarta’s who gave their lives to build this party from scratch. After Balasaheb’s death, Uddhav Thackeray succeeded the throne but he made wrong choices when it came to choosing the people who advised him. The decision to break away from BJP (an alliance for more than 25 years) was administered by Sanjay Raut. Let’s say he was a key player in the formation of the Maha Vikas Aghadi. But, Sanjay Raut’s way of communicating, his ego issues and his habit of giving unwanted statements at the most unwanted times created a huge problem for the Shiv Sainiks as is evident from the stand taken by Shiv Sena Stalwart Eknath Shinde.

Apart from this, the novice Uddhav Thackeray’s interference in the party affairs made it uneasy for the party leaders to work efficiently. Sanjay Raut, Aditya Thakarey and a few others made Uddhav Thakarey unreachable to even those within the party. While all the things were happening, Shivsena leaders from various parts of Maharashtra, tried to communicate their problems with local NCP and INC leaders to the party high command, but the high command as mentioned earlier was not reachable and was busy continuing the PR activity to project Uddhav Thakarey as the best CM. The connection between the leader and the Karyakarta’s started dwindling. 

The Fadnavis factor

While all these things were taking shape, the Maha Vikas Aghadi seemed to have forgotten the fact that Devendra Fadnavis, the only chief minister to have completed 5 years successfully in office was now the leader of the opposition. A master strategist and one of the most erudite politicians currently in Bharat was there to question the moves and intentions of the Shiv Sena-led government. From day 1, Devendra Fadnavis was on the move. A few months after he became LoP, The pandemic hit the world.

Fadnvavis started touring nook and corner of Maharashtra, personally helping those in need, while Uddhav Thackrey was busy addressing people through his infamous Facebook lives. This again sent a wrong message to the Shiv Sainiks that the leader of their party and the state were not proactive when it was needed the most. One by one, Fadnavis presented before the legislative assembly and Maharashtra the corrupt practices of the current government, right from Sachin Waze’s issue, Anil Deshmukh’s 100 CR loot, Palghar Sadhu lynching case to Nawab Malik’s underworld connection. His articulateness left the Shiv Sena speechless. Remember, the cases were mostly against the NCP members, but Uddhav Thackrey was under the cross-hair of the Janata of Maharashtra. Fadnavis also saw that one of the two spaces for Hindutva was left vacant as Shiv Sena joined hands with the anti-Hindutva parties, and made all efforts to fill that space with all his fierceness and successfully filled it.

He made his speeches targeting the anti-Hindutva stand of the current Shiv Sena-led government, thus making the Hindutvavadi camp inside the Shiv Sena uncomfortable. Devendra Fadnavis made the Sangathan of BJP much stronger. He made full use of the rift within the Maha Vikas Aghadi to secure exceptional wins right from the Sthanik Swarajya Sanstha elections to Rajya Sabha and recently the Legislative council elections. BJP became stronger on all fronts, thus making the Shiv Sainiks think of their future careers in years to come after 2024 when MVA will be dissolved and Fadnavis will be back in power. 

Eknath Shinde’s rebellion: Farce or truth? 

The last month has been more or less like a roller coaster ride for Maharashtra. From the Rajya Sabha elections to the MLC elections, it has all been a great story so far for the BJP but a nightmare for MVA especially the Shiv Sena. In Rajya Sabha, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Pawar lost to BJP leader Dhananjay Mahadik. In MLC elections, BJP won the impossible 5th Seat of Prasad Lad. BJP had managed to get votes of the MLAs from the MVA, out of which it seemed to manage the highest were from SS, second highest from INC and least from NCP. This made the rift within the party much clearer.

The farce, know-all attitude of the CMs defacto advisor Raut, was open for the public to see and Shiv Sainiks to question. Eknath Shinde, one of the prominent leaders in Shivsena, left the state on the second day of the MLC election results along with a few MLAs to Gujrat, keeping all their phones unreachable, making a bold statement against the party leadership, especially Uddhav Thackeray. Uddhav Thackeray’s unreachable stance in the past, came to haunt him now. Eknath Shinde after a day and a half of all the drama, tweeted from his account that he and the MLAs with him are the true Shiv Sainiks of Balasaheb and Anand Dighe Saheb, who will not compromise with Hindutva for the sake of power.

As the days passed, more and more MLAs joined him in his mutiny against the Thakarey family to get out of power with MVA. His demand is to rejoin the Hindutva camp and stand-alone independently as a party in the upcoming elections. Many are seeing this through an emotional lens, but, seeing practically, Eknath Shinde and many other leaders found themselves nowhere in future of Maharashtra politics, as they foresaw the party’s end if they stayed with NCP and INC, in the current MVA government. This move just before, the BMC, PMC, TMC and the NMC elections, makes us question, whether this rebellion by Eknath Shinde is true or not! Shiv Sena has lost its hold on the grounds of Hindutva and it will take years for it to regain control again. As of now, the only game-changer for Shiv Sena is BJP and after seeing the decisiveness of Devendra Fadnavis, it seems he will make a move that no one has even thought of. We don’t know what the future of MVA beholds, but whatever is happening currently in Maharashtra, is a good sign for the days in Maharashtra to come.

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Malhar Pandey
Malhar Pandey
Malhar Pandey is an author | Political thinker | with a very tiny political accumen to understand the 'between the lines' meaning of the political happenings in and around Maharashtra.

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