In Maharashtra politics, currently the talk is that there’s more than what meets the eyes, everyone is speculating and coming up with answers that they feel will be correct. Though no one knows for sure which answer ticks the right box. By the time you read this piece there will be much more clarity but right now, the only question that the entire country is currently asking is when will Uddhav Thackeray resign? Or rather the biggest question is will Uddhav Thackeray actually put in his papers?
As expected, the BJP in Maharashtra created history when all its five candidates won the MLC elections. The polls also brought to the fore the discontent that was brewing within the Shiv Sena for a pretty long time. Even before results for the elections could be announced, a group of Shiv Sena MLAs led by Eknath Shinde had already left Mumbai for Surat. From there they moved to Guwahati. This development itself raised several questions, what was the city’s Intelligence Department doing? Ministers travelling out of State and the police didn’t know about it, and that too when the Ministry of Home is under the NCP? These questions will find answers in the due course of time.
However, coming back to the political question, why would hardcore Shiv Sainiks like Eknath Shinde, Gulabrao Patil, Sada Sarvankar, Yogesh Kadam (son of former Minister Ramdas Kadam) and many others abandon the Shiv Sena that gave them everything?
We found the answer to this question on Thursday morning (June 23) when Eknath Shinde tweeted the letter by rebel Shiv Sena MLA Sanjay Shirsat. Smita Deshmukh, former Editor and senior media professional, disclosed that the Shiv Sena MLAs were unable to get an audience with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray which was upsetting them. The same reason found its way in the letter of Shirsat. In the letter, it was mentioned that Shiv Sena rebel MLAs would stand for hours outside the gate of Chief Minister’s official bungalow Varsha but would never be called in. Directly hinting at Rajya Sabha MPs and MLCs, the rebels without naming Sanjay Raut have put the entire onus of the communication gap between them and the Chief Minister on him. On Wednesday, it was expected that Uddhav Thackeray would step down from the post of Chief Minister, a close aide of Thackeray had told us, that everything was ready and even decided, the bags were packed too. “Till the time of going live it was clear that Uddhav saheb will step down from the post of the Chief Minister. The live was supposed to start at 5 p.m. and it got delayed, because external hands came into play, and the resignation was stopped, though Uddhav saheb stuck to his decision of leaving the bungalow,” said the aide.
Abandoning the Chief Minister
Uddhav made an emotional appeal on Wednesday. However, he left Varsha, the official bungalow allotted to him as the Chief Minister of the State. He moved from Varsha in Malabar Hill to Matoshree – his personal residence at Bandra east. Matoshree was thronged by Shiv Sainiks on both sides of the road through the entire stretch. A senior Sena leader from Uddhav Thackeray’s coterie said, “No one can say that the Government is safe.” Uddhav’s aide is absolutely correct in saying so, for a big reason that of the 55 MLAs that the party has in Maharashtra, majority have abandoned the Chief Minister for Eknath Shinde.
The latest figure shows that Eknath Shinde has support of around 35 Shiv Sena MLAs and more than half a dozen Independents are supporting him. The magic figure of 37 Shiv Sena MLAS is what Shinde will need to protect himself and others from the anti-defection law. It is immaterial whether Shinde reaches the magic figure or not, the fact of matter is that the Uddhav Thackeray Government has gone into a minority. This is known to Uddhav who wanted to resign and even claimed that his resignation letter was already ready. Shinde has been continuously claiming that the Shiv Sena moved away from Hindutva, this also includes the big Muslim reservation issue where he was seen on the other side of the Government.
A certain section of the media took a jibe on Shinde’s earlier profession, that of rickshaw wallah. Shinde apparently would ride a rickshaw even in which he would take along his guru Anand Dighe around Thane. While Shinde never shied away from acknowledging the fact, some journalists felt that this could be used to embarrass him. However, they forgot that they earlier used the same trick with Prime Minister Narendra Modi firstly with the Chaiwallah comment and then with Chowkidar jibe but none of them worked. In India there’s always respect for labour of any kind where people earn their livelihood with respect rather than do things that would bring disrepute to them and their families.
This brought him and Nawab Malik face-to- face and created further rift. Meanwhile, the Congress in Delhi made fun of Savarkar and the Shiv Sena kept mum in Mumbai. Instead Sena too continued its alliance with Congress. Meanwhile, the Shiv Sena was initially left alone to handle the mess created by Congress and NCP. However, seeing things going out of hand, Sharad Pawar stepped in and it is believed that he stopped Uddhav from taking the final decision of resignation from the post of Chief Minister. Probably this was also because Uddhav himself admitted that he became Chief Minister on the insistence of Sharad Pawar and Sonia Gandhi.
The Congress is playing not much of a game and in spite of being part of the alliance, it, like a bystander, is watching the entire game from a distance. The NCP, on the other hand, is trying its best to ensure that the Government survives. Why won’t it, while both Shiv Sena and Congress saw their numbers reducing during the MLC polls, it was only NCP that gained. NCP has emerged as the biggest gainer in the MVA alliance. This is also visible from the letter of Shirsat who accused that in spite of having the Chief Minister, the Sena MLAs were meted out a step motherly treatment from the administration and the Government.
The BJP has maintained a stoic silence over the entire controversy, the party is not speaking anything on it. There is speculation that the BJP would want more clarity before it makes the next move as it had burnt its fingers earlier and won’t want to embarrass itself again.
However, the talk in the political circle is that BJP is behind this rebellion; hence the rebel Sena MLAs are moving from one BJP-ruled State to another. There is also another side that believes that Uddhav manufactured this entire rebellion to have an exit from this alliance. But both stories have not found any clear base.
Eknath Shinde’s base is increasing with every passing day. On day one, he had 22 MLAs and now the number has crossed 41. Even several MPs, Councillors from Shiv Sena are extending their support to him, this is causing a heartburn to the Shiv Sena. .
With Shinde gone, the Sena will see a heavy dent in Thane, Palghar, Nashik, Nandurbar, Dhule, Raigad, Ratnagiri, Ahmednagar, Aurangabad and many other districts of state. This also exposed that with Shinde, the party also is losing the muscle power it enjoyed. Shiv Sena in the past has seen its workers creating havoc for rebels, but the Sainiks came on road two days later this time and also most of it was peaceful, good for Mumbaikars but very unlike that of Shiv Sena.