It was June 21 last year, when the news broke out that Eknath Shinde has rebelled against his own party president and then Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. Shinde left Mumbai and shifted to Gujarat and then to Assam.
By Varun Singh
He wasn’t alone; he managed to get the support of another 39 MLAs from the Shiv Sena. Thackeray was caught unaware, and unable to handle the situation, he eventually resigned as the Chief Minister of the state, paving the way for Shinde to take over.
In months that followed, Eknath Shinde not only assumed the chair of chief minister but also that of the Shiv Sena Presiden. He got the official party name, and the official party symbol, that is the bow and arrow and even a stamp of approval from the Election Commission of India.
At present Shinde has managed to retain the MLAs who joined forces with him during the rebellion. Apart from that he also got two MLCs, and a dozen ex-Corporators from Mumbai’s BMC. Thackeray meanwhile, apart from the party name and party symbol, lost several organisational leaders and many shakhas.
But in all this, Thackeray gained the trust of the minority community, which means he has gained new grounds.
Shinde, on his part, still doesn’t have support of all Shivsainiks. In Mumbai there are close to 80+ ex-Corporators of the Shiv Sena. Out of these 80, only 13 have joined Shinde, this in spite of him being the CM.
It is normally said that power attracts people and while Shinde has got some support, Thackeray, even without power, has managed to get two new allies in the state: the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi, and then the Sambhaji Brigade.
These alliances of Uddhav Thackeray are important because these two parties hold the same votes as that of the Congress and NCP in rural Maharashtra. Thackeray is still part of the MVA and in spite of being at his political-lowest, he has taken this risk of displeasing the alliance partners.
Meanwhile, Shinde has got no new alliance, and apart from the BJP, he has no new partners since the last one year. Shinde has a presence in Thane, Navi Mumbai, Kalyan but beyond that his presence is still weak.
However, he has the party symbol and the party name.
Moreover, he still has the BJP on his side, and that is the one big thing Shinde is banking upon. In the last one year, Shinde could get close to both Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, something Thackeray couldn’t when he was in the NDA. Shinde knows that till the time he has the support of these two BJP leaders, he will easily occupy the chair of the Chief Minister.
Thackeray on the other hand is on the verge of losing the Leader of Opposition post in the legislative council of Maharashtra.
Several NCP leaders, after one MLC of Uddhav Camp shifted to Shinde, have asked for the LoP post, saying they have the equal numbers in the council now. The Congress has had bitter experiences with leaders from the Uddhav camp and have openly spoken against them several times now.
There are lot of quarrels happening in the MVA now, especially on the issue of seat sharing.
If all isn’t well in the MVA alliance, then Shinde’s side also ended up committing a mistake of publishing an advertisement where Shinde was shown as more popular than Devendra Fadnavis. Shinde’s side immediately got into troubleshooting mode, but the damage was done.
However, Shinde’s presence in the state is still not enough to get him a good number of seats. His is still not the face that can help his candidates win elections in rural areas or in the Vidarbha region. This is one big reason why Shinde will appear weak on the negotiations table in terms of seat sharing.
Also many experts of Maharashtra politics believe that the chances of many Sena MLAs being elected again on the Sena ticket look weak and they would want the BJP to bail them out. This will again end up benefiting the BJP in terms of enjoying a numerical superiority over the Sena.
While Uddhav has lost a lot in the last one year, the Shinde camp has gained—but not to the extent that was expected.