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Maharashtra political crisis: The importance of being Eknath Shinde

Updated on: 22 June,2022 07:34 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Dharmendra Jore |

Thane strongman; hardcore Hindutvawadi; popular across parties—meet the rebel who is today greater than the sum of his parts

Maharashtra political crisis: The importance of being Eknath Shinde

The calm before the storm? Eknath Shinde with Aurangabad MLA Sanjay Shirsat on Monday, just beore taking his flock to Surat. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

A diehard disciple of Shiv Sena’s powerhouse in Thane, Anand Dighe, Eknath Shinde rose from the ranks. Once a rickshaw driver, whose skills were honed by Dighe, the leader became a force to reckon with after his mentor’s death. He wears Hindutva, figuratively and literally through a trademark vermilion tilak on his forehead. Not just that, Shinde is popular across parties.

Sena has faced debacles, defections and lost control of certain areas in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, but Shinde has been in total command of the Thane district that has stood with the Sena for several decades. His son Dr Shrikant is a two-time Kalyan Lok Sabha MP. He has served as a minister in the previous BJP-Sena government, and later given the charge of the Urban Development Department in the Thackeray government. No CM in recent history had parted with this important department.

Eknath Shinde has been a disciple of Sena’s late maverick leader Anand Dighe. Pic: Eknath Shinde/TwitterEknath Shinde has been a disciple of Sena’s late maverick leader Anand Dighe. Pic: Eknath Shinde/Twitter

However, Shinde’s independence, mostly derived from the resources at hand, accessibility and his amicable relations with the BJP and other party leaders, did not go well within the party. People close to him say that he was considered a threat, not only because of his fan following in the Sena camp, but more so because of his proximity with the BJP leaders who ensured his immunity whereas other MVA leaders were targeted with various means. The Sena’s top leadership sidetracked him in the party policy affairs, but used his resources. Shinde has been complaining of interference in his department by certain individuals. 

In the June 10 Rajya Sabha and June 20 MLC polls, Shinde was kept away from the strategic deliberations and execution. Sources said that during the MLC polling at Vidhan Bhavan on Monday, he was not allowed to enter the CM’s office. Infuriated, Shinde sat in his car for a couple of hours, before gathering the MLAs, most of whom travelled with him to Surat.

Many in political circles believe Shinde can break a significant number of Sena MLAs, but then, they also recall Narayan Rane’s attempt in 2005, which did not do much damage to the Sena. However, with the BJP’s backing it may become easier, they say, while insisting that the MVA government is bound to go, sooner or later. Shinde’s mutiny is seen as the beginning of Operation Lotus.

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