The nation has known since the time Uddhav Thackeray led his party Shiv Sena out of the National Democratic Alliance led by the BJP, insisting that his son be made chief minister, that the organisation established by Balasaheb Thackeray would be ill at ease in the company of pro-Muslim Nationalist Congress Party and the Indian National Congress. Greed for power clearly led to the decision to dishonour the people’s mandate. But since then, while Bal Thackeray’s son may have compromised with his father’s ideology, the Hindutva of average Shiv Sainiks have found the atmospherics of a ‘secular’ Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi not in sync with their sensibilities. Off and on, even a vocal defendant of the state government and Saamana editor, the Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut, had to tell the coalition partners that there were aspects of the party that could not be sacrificed. But the rebellion led by MLA Eknath Shinde involves other minutiae.
Leader of dissent in Shiv Sena
Eknath Shinde (58), a four-time MLA and cabinet minister, rebelled against the MVA government and left Mumbai on the night of 20 June with 21 other MLAs and travelled to Surat in Gujarat, from where they were airlifted today to Guwahati. This happened after a team of the BJP reached Gujarat. Shinde now claims that he has the support of 46 MLAs, including six to seven independent MLAs. As of today, the Shiv Sena leader and another 40 Sena MLAs are in Guwahati and are likely to stay at the Radisson hotel.
“Right now we have 46 MLAs with us, including 6-7 Independent MLAs. This number will rise in the time to come. As of now we have neither received any proposal from BJP nor are we holding any talks with them,” Shinde told news agency ANI. He said that the rebel MLAs were not in talks with the Shiv Sena or Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.
Four reasons of grievance shared by rank and file of Shiv Sena
Compromise with ideology
Eknath Shinde has claimed on Twitter that he will continue to be a Bal Thackeray supporter — an obvious indication of the Hindutva ideology — and will never compromise with his principles for political gains. This was a veiled attack on Uddhav Thackeray who, Shinde seemed to suggest, had lost the direction in which the founder of the party wanted it to move.
Marginalisation of leaders including veterans
A lot many Shiv Sena MLAs — their strength is mentioned above — share Shinde’s grievance. Their resentment is fuelled by veterans in the party who feel marginalised. When they try to reach out to the party head, he allegedly avoids them because he has no answer to the question of why he must take dictations from Sharad Pawar and even Sonia Gandhi.
NCP greater problem than INC
Another reason why Eknath Shinde rebelled could be his party’s decision to combine forces with the NCP. It was reported that Shinde was especially upset with Uddhav Thackeray’s decision to join hands with the NCP and the INC to form the MVA government in the state. Shinde was of the opinion that the allies, especially the NCP, have hurt the Sena’s future.
Inaccessible Uddhav Thackeray
In the past two years, Eknath Shinde’s access to Matoshree, the residence of Uddhav Thackeray, has been restricted, an indication of further strain between the leadership and the one-time loyalist. The inaccessibility of Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray is a widely shared grievance in the rank and file of the Shiv Sena.
Two personal reasons for Eknath Shinde
As for personal grouses, while Shinde is the chairperson of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), Aaditya Thackeray quite often attends the MMRDA meetings involving its commissioner, overriding Shinde.
The issue of security cover pushed Shinde to the corner. He used to enjoy Z-category security but was keen to get Z+ security cover, at par with that of Uddhav Thackeray and Sharad Pawar. When he was snubbed, he turned furious.
MVA government falling either way
If the MVA government does not fall due to the withdrawal of support by the Shiv Sena, it will fall due to Shiv Sena’s disintegration. As per the latest reports, no more than 13 MLAs of the Shiv Sena remain loyal to Uddhav Thackeray. Even many of the MLAs left behind by Eknath Shinde did not attend the first emergency meeting convened by the party chief.
The situation is so desperate for the Uddhav Thackeray faction that Sanjay Raut is saying the party is ready to sever its tie with the MVA government but the MLAs must return from their hideouts in other states.
Numbers show that the MVA government in Maharashtra is fighting its worst crisis since its inception in 2019. The Shiv Sena that heads the MVA has 55 MLAs, followed by allies NCP (53) and the Congress (44) in the 288-seat assembly where the current simple majority mark is 144. Moreover, 15 independent legislators and MLAs from smaller parties support the MVA government, taking the number to 167. But with the BJP’s 106 MLAs, if one adds 46 to the figure and Devendra Fadnavis — who recently made deft manoeuvres for the Rajya Sabha elections — can engineer defections from the NCP and INC, adds fluid independent MLAs who do not care for ideology, there can be a new coalition with a strength of MLAs much greater than the majority mark of 145.
In the latest development in the context, Eknath Shinde has asked Uddhav Thackeray to resume the alliance with the BJP. Checkmate!