Maharashtra: Shiv Sena’s Eknath Shinde rebels while Fadnavis is on roll


Eknath Shinde is second from left. Phto Credit Twitter Eknath Shinde

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By Manish Anand

New Delhi, June 21: The Shiv Sena strongman and Maharashtra minister Eknath Shinde’s rebellion has turned Maharashtra politics fluid. There are several possibilities, with one message that the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) alliance is imploding.

Shinde, the Shiv Sena’s Thane strongman, is livid ostensibly for the state Chief Minister Udhav Thackrey’s promotion of political dynasty by propping up his son Aditya Thackeray.

But Shinde’s icon and the Sena founder Bal Thackeray had also promoted his son while passing on the baton to him. That makes the alibi being offered for his rebellion only politically convenient.

Shinde along with unknown number of the Sena MLAs is resting at the Le Meridian hotel in Surat with full protection of the Gujarat Police. The MLAs with him are rumoured to be in the range of 12 to 21 while the Shiv Sena has a total of 56 legislators in the state Assembly.

Former state chief minister and the leader of the Opposition in the Maharashtra Assembly Devendra Fadnavis is in the national capital, awaiting an audience with the Union Minister for Home Affairs Amit Shah.

Fadnavis is emboldened by the Bharatiya Janata Party winning additional seats in the just concluded Rajya Sabha elections and the polls for the Legislative Council.

He has previously also been in a hurry to seize power in the state.

His dramatic bid to form government in the state with Ajit Pawar of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) had left the top brass of the BJP red-faced.

Fadnavis had underestimated the street power of the Shiv Sena cadre who have in the past dragged MLAs of the party and that of the NCP to any places where they were required.

The BJP has 106 MLAs in the Maharashtra Assembly. The total strength of the House is 288, and the BJP is far off from the half-way mark of 145.

The Congress and the NCP MLAs are stated to be within their camps.

The BJP may count on 27 non-SP MLAs from the ranks of the independents and the smaller parties to get past the half-way mark in the state Assembly. But that will require a sizable number of the Shiv Sena MLAs to remain rebellious even when they return to the state from Gujarat, and either they resign or get the numbers to escape the punishment under the anti-defection law.

The BJP is counting on the growing discomforts among the Shiv Sena legislators for the ideologically unsound MVA alliance.

Besides, the Sena MLAs had won the elections in 2019 in alliance with the BJP against either the Congress or the NCP leaders. They don’t have mutually exclusive electoral turfs within the MVA alliance, and the next Assembly elections would be in another two years.

Within the BJP Fadnavis enjoys relatively more autonomy than any of his peers in other states, and he had gone ahead with the pre-poll alliance with the Shiv Sena in the 2019 state elections even while he was advised by the party’s top brass to go solo and aim for 125 plus Assembly seats.

While the Maharashtra politics has turned fluid, it will be watched out whether the BJP top brass goes whole hog with Fadnavis.

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