Rajat Sharma

Is it going to be Thackeray-Mukt Shiv Sena now?

rajat-sirMaharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray’s Maha Vikas Aghadi government is now on the brink, with more MLAs leaving his camp and joining rebel leader Eknath Shinde’s fast-increasing band of MLA supporters. Uddhav Thackeray’s government may have to resign soon, as there appears to be no sign of rebel MLAs walking back to the Shiv Sena fold. The Eknath Shinde camp has now 42 MLAs present at the hotel in Guwahati. These include 34 Shiv Sena and eight independent MLAs.

On Thursday afternoon, in an open letter addressed to Uddhav Thackeray dated June 22, and circulated on social media on Thursday by Shinde camp, a rebel Shiv Sena MLA Sanjay Shirsat alleged that the doors of the chief minister’s official residence ‘Varsha’ were closed to party MLAs for the last two and a half years.

Shirsat alleged, Uddhav allowed his son Aditya Thckeray to visit Ayodhya, but Shiv Sena MLAs were prevented from going to Ayodhya. “When Hindutva and Ram Mandir are crucial issues for the party, why did the party leadership prevented us from visiting Ayodhya? MLAs were called and were told not to accompany Aditya Thackeray to Ayodhya”, Shirsat alleged in his letter.

The rebel Shiv Sena MLA also alleged in his letter that “the Chief Minister never visited the Secretariat, and he used to be in Matoshri. We used to call people around him, but they never used to take our calls. We were fed up of all these things and requested Eknath Shinde to take this step.”

With the influx of more rebel MLAs, the Eknath Shinde camp, along with BJP, and other NDA supporters now claims to have the support of a total of 164 MLAs, 20 more than the required majority, while the MVA with a dwindled Shiv Sena camp of only 13 MLAs, has the support of only 124 MLAs. Eknath Shinde has said he would not split the Shiv Sena vertically, and would convince Uddhav Thackeray to quit and hand over the leadership to his camp. Shinde is already on record having said that he would prefer an alliance with the BJP.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday night Uddhav Thackeray vacated his official residence ‘Varsha’ and shifted with his bag and baggage to his own residence ‘Matoshri’, even as thousands of Shiv Sainiks chanted slogans in his support during his 9-km journey. Thackeray is yet to tender his resignation, but by vacating his official residence, he has sought to send a message to his supporters.

On the other hand, BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis and his associates are keenly watching the developments and are waiting for the right time to strike, so that a new government can take over.

In his Facebook Live speech on Wednesday, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray clearly was on the defensive. He said several times that he was ready to resign, and would not like to cling to the (CM’s) chair. But he said, those who have rebelled should come to him and tell him in his face that they wanted him to quit. Clearly, Uddhav is now fighting with his back to the wall.

In his speech, Uddhav said, he used to give preference to Shiv Sainiks compared to NCP or Congress leaders. “Even if any Shiv Sena MLA or leader feels that I am not capable of continuing as CM, they should come to Mumbai and tell this in front of me. I will immediately resign”, Uddhav said.

Uddhav Thackeray had to see this day because he assumed that he was as big in stature as the late Balasaheb Thackeray, but Shiv Sena leaders never saw the image of Balasaheb in him. Uddhav continuously sidelined leaders like Eknath Shinde, who were loyalist of Thackeray family for decades. He took them for granted.

Uddhav never gave appointments to even senior Shiv Sena leaders, never listened to their requests, and harboured the false assumption that Shiv Sena leaders and workers had nowhere to go except him. He never thought that Shiv Sena MLAs would revolt.

On the other hand, Shiv Sena leaders and workers were watching that Uddhav, because of ‘coalition compulsions’ was giving more preference to NCP and Congress leaders. It looked as if Uddhav was more interested in getting certificates from Sharad Pawar and Sonia Gandhi. It was then that old loyalist Eknath Shinde decided that Uddhav’s time was up and he must revolt with his supporters.

Eknath Shinde used to constantly meet his party MLAs and supporters. He used to speak about Hindutva ideology, and Shiv Sena workers then realized that they used to get more respect when they were in alliance with BJP.

Uddhav managed to become the chief minister, but in the process, he accepted Sharad Pawar, the king maker, as his boss. Leaders like Eknath Shinde saw that their political future was in jeopardy because Uddhav was anyhow going to anoint his son Aaditya Thackeray as the CM. That is when the rebels decided to take control of the party and force Uddhav to resign. They felt that their ‘acche din’ (good days) would come if they tied up in alliance with the BJP.

After the last assembly elections in Maharashtra, which the Shiv Sena fought in alliance with the BJP, 99 percent Shiv Sena MLAs wanted that a coalition government be formed with BJP, but because of high personal ambitions of Uddhav and his son Aaditya Thackeray, the feelings of 99 per cent Shiv Sena MLAs were overruled.

As the Maha Vikas Aghadi rule went on for two and a half years, most of the Shiv Sena MLAs and ministers felt almost everyday, the difference between the rule of MVA government and that of Devendra Fadnavis’ coalition government. These MLAs found that they had no say in governance. Uddhav Thackeray failed to gauge the sentiment of his MLAs. He was busy keeping Sharad Pawar and Sonia Gandhi happy, and that led to his political downfall.

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