It was a masterstroke that no political pundit worth his salt could have analysed and predicted. When everyone was expecting Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Devendra Fadnavis to take over the mantle from Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, the former Chief Minister announced that rebel Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde, is going to be the next Chief Minister of Maharashtra.
Shinde, who reminded his ex-boss Uddhav Thackeray the true meaning of Hindutva and the ideology espoused by his father the late Bal Thackeray, was sworn in as the Chief Minister of Maharashtra on Thursday evening.
Magnanimity of the BJP Leadership
Thanking Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Fadnavis, Eknath Shinde said, “It’s their magnanimity. They had a bigger mandate yet they made me the Chief Minister. Who does that?
While taking over the oath, Shinde was clearly a picture of confidence and resilience with the full backing of Bharatiya Janata Party, endorsement from Union Home Minister Amit Shah, and the rebel MLAs who voluntarily went with him from Surat to Guwahati. The MLAs kept their lips sealed and did not divulge their gameplan while they were staying at Radisson Blue Hotel in Guwahati for a week.
Since Uddhav Thackeray is in a minority in the party, Kesarkar asserted that the rebel faction is now the Shiv Sena
In another surprising move, Fadnavis was made Deputy Chief Minister as the BJP directed him to become a part of the new Cabinet. This also surprised the political analysts as he had stated that he would not be a part of the Cabinet.
An elated Deepak Kesarkar, spokesperson of the Sena rebels, stressed that it was ideology and not greed for better posts that drove them (MLAs) to switch sides and go with the Bharatiya Janata Party. Since Uddhav Thackeray is in a minority in the party, Kesarkar asserted that the rebel faction is now the Shiv Sena. “It’s not a question of who is the real Shiv Sena. We have the legal majority and thus ours is the legislature party,” he said.
Stamp of Approval
Meanwhile, Fadnavis, who was widely expected to take over the State’s top post following the fall of Maha Vikas Aghadi Government, expressed confidence that the BJP will extend its complete support to the Shinde camp, which has 39 lawmakers as well as the backing of 16 Independents and others. “The Shinde-led Government will effectively resolve issues which have been stalled for the last two and a half years,” said Fadnavis.
Meanwhile, Uddhav Thackeray’s endgame as the Maharashtra Chief Minister appeared inevitable when the Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to stall a floor test that the MVA Government appeared set to lose. With this decision from the apex court, the focus shifted to BJP as it was expected to form the next government with the support of the rebels. As Chief Minister, who had to listen to the diktats of NCP chief Sharad Pawar every now and then, Uddhav had softened his Hindutva agenda. He was more interested in extending support to his son Aaditya Thackeray when his name cropped up in the death of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput was going the rounds than meeting his MLAs who kept on waiting at his official bungalow Varsha. There were charges that the actor from Bihar was murdered. Aaditya’s closeness with Bollywood stars and the film industry’s association with drugs, links with underworld and keeping aspiring actors, who come from outside the industry, at bay were prominent factors that maligned his image as well as Shiv Sena at that point of time.
PDP Extends Support to Thackeray
In another setback to Shiv Sena’s hardline image that used to advocate tough stand against Islamists and Pakistan propagandits, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti, who has been advocating talks between India and Pakistan despite the Islamic country’s running terrorist camps in PoK and aiding and abetting terrorism in the Valley, sympathised with Uddhav Thackeray for losing his chair.
Shedding crocodile tears, Mehbooba Mufti wrote a tweet to back Thackeray which left political pundits flabbergasted considering the fact that Shiv Sena had been sharply critical of the former J&K Chief Minister.
While taking over the oath, Shinde was clearly a picture of confidence and resilience with the full backing of Bharatiya Janata Party, endorsement from Union Home Minister Amit Shah, and the rebel MLAs who voluntarily went with him from Surat to Guwahati
In her post on Twitter, Mehbooba Mufti, in an attempt to attack the Union Government, said, “Having borne the brunt for standing up to GOI (Government of India), I understand when a political party is splintered. A party made with sweat, blood & tears is suddenly broken into pieces & hijacked. It isn’t just you vs the BJP. You fight against the might of the entire government & agencies.”
Earlier, Shinde, who led the rebels, was expected to be sworn in as the Deputy Chief Minister and Fadnavis as the Chief Minister after losing power in 2019 when the Shiv Sena walked out of a pre-poll alliance with the BJP and formed a government in alliance with Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party. Thackeray’s resignation culminated Fadnavis’s campaign to topple the MVA government. Shinde on Wednesday reiterated that he and his MLAs are not rebels and remain Shiv Sainiks while pledging to carry forward agenda and Hindutva ideology of Sena founder Bal Thackeray, with whom he enjoyed excellent rapport.
Earlier, Thackeray tried to playdown his defeat by maintaining that he was not going anywhere and will meet Shiv Sainiks at Sena Bhavan and rebuild the party with new blood. The damage was already done as his son, Aaditya Thackeray had used derogatory words against the rebels.
Striking a combative note, the 32-year-old Thackeray said, “The dirt from the party has gone, now whatever will happen will be for the better.”
Intimidating the rebels in an aggressive tone, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut on Tuesday said, “Traitors would not be able to roam free.”
In his first reaction to his cousin and rival Uddhav Thackeray’s resignation and the subsequent collapse of the Maha Vikas Aghadi Government, Raj Thackeray took a veiled dig at him indicating that the CM’s chair was Uddhav’s good fortune, not an accomplishment. What Raj Thackeray hinted in his cryptic tweet is that the CM’s chair which Uddhav Thackeray got after stitching an alliance with the Congress and the NCP was just by a stroke of luck and nothing that Uddhav had accomplished.