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Tuesday, May 30, 2023

‘We believe in Balasaheb’s Hindutva”: Rebel Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde

The rapid ideological drift of the Shiv Sena (SS) ever since it joined the casteist-Islamist aka ‘secular’ Congress + NCP camp to form the MVA coalition government in Maharashtra, has resulted in the rupture within the party that many had predicted.

SS MLA and urban development minister Eknath Shinde has claimed that 40 of his party’s MLAs and 6 independents have joined him in raising the banner of revolt against SS supremo and CM Uddhav Thackeray. Shinde said that they believe in the late Balasaheb Thackeray’s Hindutva agenda.

“We are Balasaheb’s staunch Shiv Sainiks … Balasaheb has taught us Hindutva. We have never and will never cheat for power regarding Balasaheb’s thoughts and Dharmaveer Anand Dighe Saheb’s teachings,” Shinde tweeted. Considered instrumental in strengthening the party in the Thane region, Shinde has made a meteoric rise from humble origins while maintaining a low profile. He is known as a good orator and efficient organiser known for taking spot decisions. Once considered a dependable trouble-shooter for the party, today Shinde, 58, has drifted away from the Sena’s top leadership.

Shinde is keen to see Sena revert to Hindutva, the cornerstone of the party’s electoral strategy for decades. The Shinde camp believes Sena’s prospects have considerably dimmed as a result of the “secular” alliance with Congress-NCP.

Maharashtra Shiv Sena minister Sandipan Bhumare, who is among the dissidents led by Shinde, said they do not have any complaints against the Sena leadership, but they have been upset with the style of functioning of the NCP and Congress, the other two ruling alliance partners in the state. This rebellion comes after suspected cross-voting in Maharashtra Legislative Council (MLC) elections in which BJP bagged 5 out of 10 seats, in a major blow to the MVA government.

Speculation is rife that the rebel MLAs might join the BJP to topple the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government. BJP is the single largest party in the 288 member Maharashtra assembly with 106 seats. Shiv Sena has 55, NCP 53 and Congress 44 MLAs. The Shinde camp needs 37 Sena MLAs (2/3rds of Sena’s total) to ensure rebels do not get disqualified under the anti-defection law. If the Shinde faction gets to this number and decides to back BJP or even merge with it, there could be regime change

“The ongoing political crisis in Maharashtra is heading towards the dissolution of Vidhan Sabha,” motormouth Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut, a consistent baiter of PM Modi and the BJP, tweeted today. Earlier today, CM Uddhav Thackeray chaired a crucial meeting of his cabinet virtually after he tested positive for Covid. Shiv Sena has now called a meeting of all MLAs at 5 pm at the CM’s residence. Those who do not attend may have their membership cancelled, the party warned.

Balasaheb Thackeray, who founded Shiv Sena on June 19, 1966, to advocate for the interest of Marathis or the people of Maharashtra, passed away on November 17, 2012. He later became a staunch proponent of Hindutva and arguably the most influential figure in Maharashtra politics. After Balasaheb’s death, his son Uddhav took over the reins of the party while nephew Raj Thackeray split to launch his own outfit MNS. Many believe Raj’s split was engineered by the other big figure of Maharashtra politics – NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, a staunch Islamist appeaser.

The BJP and the Shiv Sena used to be allies until 2019 when after contesting the Maharashtra Assembly elections together, both parted ways allegedly over the issue of the chief ministerial post.

Meanwhile, Maharashtra BJP chief Chandrakant Patil claimed that technically the state government is in minority as Eknath Shinde and other Shiv Sena MLAs have gone. He said that the BJP was presently in a wait and watch mode and added that there has not been any proposal regarding government formation neither from the BJP nor from Shinde.

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