Shinde’s display of power politics has sent shockwaves within the coalition partners.
New Delhi: When the collapse of the Maharashtra Vikas Agadhi (MVA) coalition government started gathering pace on Tuesday, it was Shiv Sena Urban Development Minister Eknath Shinde, who had reportedly seized, a day before, control of over 21 of its party legislators and flown to Surat. Shinde’s display of power politics sent shockwaves within the coalition partners.
The message was clear: “Forget the Sena supremo Uddhav Thackeray, we will re-ally with the BJP, our natural and ideological ally”. After the Sena’s rebel group was flown from Surat to Guwahati, more and more MLAs were seen joining the group. The video circulated by them clearly showed more than 37 MLAs with Shinde, the number required to bypass anti-defection law. In the process, Shinde showed off his power to sway majority MLAs and size down the existence of the party chieftain.
If rumblings in the party are to be believed, during the 2019 Assembly elections, Shinde was made to swear at the “Matoshree”, the Thackeray family home, and asked to pledge that he will not join the BJP; the whole act, according to party leaders, had him develop resentment for the leadership. Rumour has it, “he was hurt by that.” As experts say, holding onto power needs active politicking. Not expecting any revolt, the coalition partners were kind enough in “trusting Thackeray” and his hold over the party and did not suspect any immediate political stumping against him.
Surprisingly, the Special Protection Unit (SPU) that accompanies lawmakers and are expected to inform senior officers about legislators’ move to another state had chosen to refrain from passing the information up the official ladder.
Moreover, the state police, that comes under the state Ministry of Home affairs and is headed by Nationalist Congress Party legislator Dilip Walse, did not see any sign of a major lapse developing in the police machinery. However, the whole event that ran behind the curtain without ticking the home minister had NCP supremo Sharad Pawar disappointed and also shows apparently, the MVA’s weak hold over the prominent portfolio.
Political observers believe, a lot of money was pumped in by the BJP to meticulously plot and execute the series of events, with Shinde calling the shots for the Shiv Sena from Guwahati, and Sena supremo Uddhav Thackeray leaving the official residence.
HOW DID SHINDE GROW THIS POWERFUL?
Being a topmost trustee of Thackeray, Shinde’s clout kept growing when the leaders down the ladder came to him to address their concerns rather than go to Thackeray; the reason the party leaders cited was, “Uddhavji is inaccessible”.
As political as it seems, Shinde, leading the rebel flock, has been shocking for the party, and a “never to be imagined phenomenon”. Sena leaders say, the big leap was backed by the deed of getting work done for people which had built him political capital that he could rely upon. A Shiv Sena corporator while seeking anonymity said, “Wherever Shindeji goes, the place becomes crowded, he does not speak much though, he is a man of few words, but he has a lot of fan following.”
The reason the corporator gave was that Shinde has always tried to help people in office, lawmakers, and workers or anybody who approaches him for help. “Moreover, he will help a Shivsainik immediately,” he added.
DISPUTE OVER FUNDS
To add to the dismay of the party, the Sena rebels were dissatisfied by the share they would get in funds compared to the NCP and Congress. “According to conversations in the party, Shiv Sena would only get around 18%, and the other two parties would get close to 60% funds,” a Shiv Sena leader said.
On Thursday, out of the 55 MLAs the Sena has, who had pledged their loyalty to the Sena supremo Uddhav Thackeray, a major chunk of them was now seen complying with Shinde—a show that portrayed him as a Sainik who is more powerful than Thackeray.
BJP’S BIG GAME
Over the past few months, according to sources, disputes between the coalition leaders had been growing, but were subsequently silenced by the top leaders without fixing their concerns—an opportunity apt for BJP to tilt the power balance in its favour, and an opportunity for Shinde to rebel against his own government to form a new government and ascend to the position of CM.
The whole event has also led Maharashtrian Sena whisper “Shinde” being responsible for BJP’s victory in Rajya Sabha’s and MLC’s additional seat when the saffron party was way short of required voters. Evidently emboldened by the Centre’s (BJP) support, bolstered Shinde in Guwahati seems determined to take his “lot” to success by forming a government with the BJP.