Eknath Shinde: How Thane-Palghar strongman gave BIG BOOST to OPERATION LOTUS

Eknath Shinde, a senior leader of the Shiv Sena, is at the Centre of mega political crisis in Maharashtra. Shinde, who was disgruntled over various reasons, is reportedly planning to quit Shiv Sena along with 22 MLAs. Shinde’s moving away with 22 MLAs will get the Shiv Sena – NCP – Congress (Maha Vikas Aghadi) government in minority. The MVA will then find it extremely difficult to survive as its numbers will go way below the needed strength of 144 MLAs.

The Operation Lotus – a codename given to BJP’s alleged attempts to topple the MVA government in the state – has got a big boost due to this. Just in case, the government comes into minority, it will be an uphill task for Uddhav Thackeray and Sharad Paware to stack up the required numbers.

Shinde made a telling tweet indicating his `rebellious` mood, here on Tuesday. “We are Balasaheb (Thackeray)`s staunch Shiv Sainiks. Balasaheb has taught us Hindutva. We have never and will never compromise on the teachings of Balasaheb and `dharmaveer` Anand Dighe for power,” said Shinde in a tweet in Marathi.

Significantly, he has knocked off the Shiv Sena logo from his Twitter handle, which was noted by the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) allies.

The Sena hit back by sacking Shinde as the party leader in the legislature and replacing him with a loyal sainik, Ajay Chaudhari this afternoon.

While preparing to join hands with the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Shinde has kept a lifeline open with the MVA with proposals and counter-proposals changing hands between Maharashtra-Gujarat.

Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar made it clear that there is no need for a leadership change in Maharashtra.

Pawar also said Shinde never expressed his desire to become the Chief Minister, but made it clear that its an internal issue of the Sena and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray would handle the matter and sort it out.

Congress Minister Ashok Chavan and senior leader Prithviraj Chavan declined to comment on the Sena`s internal matter, but admitted that the MVA faced a crisis, while NCP`s Minister Chhagan Bhujbal expressed optimism that the political storm would clear in a day or so.

After the Sena-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) suffered a setback in the Maharashtra Legislative Council polls on Monday night, Shinde went incommunicado. He is camping at a hotel in Gujarat’s Surat city along with some party MLAs.

Shinde rose in the Shiv Sena hierarchy from ranks. He had served as the party corporator for several terms before getting elected to the Legislative Assembly in 2004.

He is also known for his accessibility and has a strong grip on the party organisation in Thane and Palghar districts, part of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, which send 24 MLAs to the Assembly.

The BJP leaders have been hinting that a `change of government` in the state is inevitable, though no top leaders are officially commenting till the undeclared `Operation Lotus` is a success.