The latest crisis in Maharasthra’s Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government has been caused by senior Shiv Sena leader and minister Eknath Shinde, who is said to be hurt and upset with both Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Sanjay Raut, and displeased with the importance given to Aaditya Thackeray.
Sources say the tensions have been simmering for a while now, though many in the MVA did not anticipate this to blow up as it was just two days ago that Shinde shared the stage with the CM and senior party leaders on the occasion of the 56th anniversary of the Shiv Sena and shared the photos of the event.
Shinde also accompanied Aaditya Thackeray to Ayodhya last week but sources say his communication line with the CM was hardly working and he was feeling frustrated in the party. And the BJP seems to have cashed in on this breakdown of communications.
Sources also claim that Shinde was not being given independence to run his department, Urban Development and PWD, and the Chief Minister’s Office was constantly monitoring the developments in his ministry with all important decisions needing the CMO’s nod first. Some also allege that Aaditya Thackeray was interfering in the work of Shinde’s departments. The senior leader had served in the Devendra Fadnavis cabinet and shared a good rapport with the former chief minister, which seems to have worked in the BJP’s favour.
Sources say the rebellion is largely borne out of the mismanagement of Shiv Sena affairs and the way Sanjay Raut seems to have the last word in matters in the coalition. Shinde supporters and party insiders say there were complaints raised by Shiv Sena MLAs that neither Sharad Pawar nor NCP MLAS were cooperating and even Uddhav Thackeray had not been meeting them, causing further rift in the ranks.
BJP sources are claiming nearly two dozen MLAs are with Shinde and he has now taken them away to Surat in Gujarat.
The final straw may have been Shinde being irked by two Yuva Sena leaders being given the charge of the MLC elections along with Sanjay Raut during the Rajya Sabha elections.
A wounded Eknath Shinde, who had nursed the dream of being a chief minister in 2019, once again felt let down by Uddhav Thackeray. This seems to have reflected in the MLC elections where BJP scored a big victory with cross-voting by Shiv Sena MLAs. Considered a mass leader, sources stated that constant interference and neglect on part of the CM and his family has led Shinde to take an extreme step against MVA.
“When it was announced in 2019 that a Shiv Sainik will be the CM, Eknath Shinde was the frontrunner. It was on the behest of Sanjay Raut and Subhash Desai, who claimed that Uddhav Thackeray would be a better choice than Shinde, that he took over the reins. He has been nursing his wounds since then. The last straw on the camel’s back was giving Raut the responsibility of the MLC and RS seats. We are not sure if he plans to topple the government or work out a strategy with the Shiv Sena,” said a senior Congress leader on the condition of anonymity.
Today, Shinde has used the same strategy he adopted to help the MVA legislators form the government back in 2019 — herding MLAS to a resort to keep them in check. During the 20119 assembly elections, Shinde was given the responsibility of taking care of the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress MLAs who were housed in different resorts across Mumbai. He also bore the expenses of their transportation and stay. Now, he has reportedly herded over 20 MLAs to a resort in Surat, marking a rebellion against Uddhav Thackeray.
Incidentally, Eknath Shinde rose from very humble beginnings. Having been an auto-rickshaw and tempo driver, he scaled up the party rung with his sheer dedication, sharp mind and strategic planning.
Soon, he became part of Uddhav Thackeray’s inner trust circle. He is known to be an adept administrator with expert organisational skills. With Devendra Fadnavis flying into Delhi early on Tuesday morning, the buzz has been that the BJP and Fadnavis — who still has close relations with Shinde — could be working out a strategy to change the course of Maharashtra’s politics, said a party insider.