Rajat Sharma

Making Eknath Shinde the CM was BJP’s masterstroke

akb2110 After nine days of political turmoil in Maharashtra, it was the BJP’s turn to shock everybody with a dramatic twist. Nobody could have dreamt the climax that was kept as a secret. Shiv Sainik Eknath Shinde was offered the post of Chief Minister by the BJP. Shinde will run his government with support from the largest party, BJP.

Shock number 2: On the party’s directive, Devendra Fadnavis took oath as Deputy Chief Minister. Till 4.30 pm on Thursday, nobody had an inkling about this dramatic twist in Maharashtra. When Fadnavis started his press conference, it was speculated whether he would take oath as the CM on Thursday or Friday.

When Fadnavis dropped the bombshell by announcing that Eknath Shinde will take oath as the Chief Minister, the reporters present could not believe their ears. Most of them were surprised how a leader of 40 Shiv Sena MLAs and 10 independents could become the chief minister, with support from BJP camp that commanded support of 120 MLAs.

There are many who could be asking if BJP had to make a Shiv Sainik as CM, it could have done so in 2019 when the assembly poll results were out. The SS-BJP alliance could have stayed intact. But I think, BJP’s decision to offer the CM post to a Shiv Sainik is not about forming a government for two and a half years. This decision could be part of a 25-year-long strategy.

Eknath Shinde is a Shiv Sainik, a close associate of his party founder Balasaheb Thackeray. Shinde has come to power in the name of Hindutva. Since the new government is headed by a Shiv Sainik, this single decision has shut off the mouths of Uddhav Thackeray, his son Aditya Thackeray, Sanjay Raut and Arvind Sawant. They have nothing to say now.

It was Uddhav Thackeray who had been saying that had BJP made a Shiv Sainik as CM, he would have stayed with the BJP. It was Balasaheb Thackeray’s dream to have a Shiv Sena government headed by a Shiv Sainik. Now that BJP has made a Shiv Sainik as CM and has fulfilled Balasaheb’s dreams, its opponents have no brownie points to score. Eknath Shinde, who had come to his oath ceremony, carrying his grandson in his lap, took the oath in the name of Balasaheb Thackeray.

By watching Eknath Shinde taking over as CM, Uddhav Thackeray has run out of catchy anti-BJP dialogues. Uddhav has lost the support of his Shiv Sainiks, though he has the Shiv Sena with him, only in name. With Shinde taking over as CM, Uddhav has become the biggest loser, while Devendra Fadnavis has become the biggest game changer.

Eknath Shinde taking over as CM has come as a big blow to Shiv Sena’s morale ahead of the crucial BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) electoral battle.

The hero in the entire drama was Devendra Fadnavis. It was none other than Eknath Shinde who articulated this at the joint press conference. Shinde said, “It is the large-heartedness of Devendra Fadnavis to give up the chief minister’s post for one of Balasaheb’s Shiv Sainiks, although BJP has the support of 120 MLAs”.

At the press conference, Fadnavis said, he would stay out of government. But soon afterwards, BJP president J P Nadda appealed to Fadnavis to take over as Deputy CM, and the latter agreed. After taking oath, both Shinde and Fadnavis went to Mantralaya to take charge. With the Assembly scheduled on Saturday and Sunday, the formation of the new Council of Ministers will take place after the new coalition proves its majority on the floor of the House.

Politically, it is undoubtedly a setback for Fadnavis by accepting Shinde as the CM. He never accepted that the party would ask him to announce Shinde’s name as CM and then appeal to him to become the Deputy CM. Fadnavis is a disciplined party worker and he accepted the party directive. He should be praised for his large heartedness. To understand why accepting this scenario was difficult for a leader like Fadnavis, one has to go through his political background.

Fadnavis was CM for five years, and his competence was praised by all. The 2019 assembly poll was contested by SS-BJP alliance while projecting Fadnavis as the chief ministerial candidate. For the last two and a half years, when Uddhav was the CM, BJP leaders used to point this out to him that Shiv Sena had fought the elections in the name of Fadnavis. It was Fadnavis who recited this Urdu couplet in the assembly, “Paani Utarta Dekh Kinaare Par Ghar Mat Bana Lena, Main Samandar hoon, lout kar aaonga.” (Do not build house on my river bank by watching the water recede, I am the sea, and I shall come back)

During the recent Rajya Sabha and Legislative Council elections, Fadnavis proved that he was a master strategist by ensuring BJP’s surprise wins and inflicting losses on Maha Vikas Aghadi. Eknath Shinde has been his close associate for many years, and Fadnavis had played a major role in the operate to topple Uddhav Thackeray’s government. Fadnavis inflicted defeat on a clever and experienced leader like Sharad Pawar. Even Eknath Shinde was surprised, when BJP ceded the CM post to him. Shinde worked as cabinet minister in Fadnavis-led government for five years, but now the tables have been turned. Fadnavis will have to work under Shinde, but for BJP, in the long run, this is going to yield political dividends. Fadnavis will make a comeback, like the sea waves.

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