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26 Jun, 2022
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Maharashtra Crisis: CM Uddhav Thackeray Ready To Step Down? Eknath Shinde Incommunicado!

On Monday, the ruling party of Maharashtra Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) alliance (Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress coalition) suffered a big blow from the opposition Bhartiya Janata Party after the party won all five seats in the State Legislative Council election. However, what came as a bigger shock is that Shiv Sena’s senior leader and Urban Development Minister Eknath Shinde, along with other 11 party MLAs, have gone incommunicado. Eknath Shinde, a loyalist of Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, has been unreachable since Monday evening, right after the political fallout of the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress alliance in the MLC elections.

As per reports, Eknath Shinde, along with other party MLAs, is holed up in a five-star hotel in Surat. And if sources are to be believed, more Shiv Sena MLAs are likely to move en route to Surat, suggesting a significant party fallout in Maharashtra. 

What The Numbers Look Like After The MLC Elections?

The total strength of the Maharashtra Assembly is 288, and the current strength is 285. For a party to be in the majority in the state assembly, it has to have 143 MLAs to prove a majority and form the government in Maharashtra. Currently, the BJP has 134 MLAs, only 9 short of hitting the majority mark. 

On Monday, voting for the 10 seats in the Maharashtra Legislative Council Elections was held. In the results, two candidates each from the ruling alliance NCP, Shiv Sena and five seats were won by the opposition party in the state BJP as per the Election Commission of India. All current 285 MLAs cast their ballot in the elections as the voting concluded at 4 pm. While NCP, Shiv Sena and Congress fielded two candidates each, BJP fielded 5 candidates. The MLC elections proved to be a game-changer for the BJP as 5 of their candidates won the elections. 

Senior Shiv Sena Leader Eknath Shinde Goes Incommunicado! But Why?

Urban Development Minister Eknath Shinde went missing along with other MLAs of the alliance. Shinde is said to be a close ally of Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and a true Shiv Sainik. While the MVA has constantly been denying any internal rift in the party, reports suggest otherwise. It is still unclear how many Shiv Sena MLAs are in touch with Eknath Shinde. Reportedly a party leader said that Eknath Shinde is in Gujarat along with other MLAs. The party leader also said that Shinde was at the Shiv Sena office on Monday when CM Uddhav Thackeray was present there. However, post that, Shinde is nowhere to be seen. 

Since Shinde has a tight grip on some of the satellite cities of Mumbai, including Thane, the development could rattle the Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance till the time Shinde’s motive remains unclear. Many senior MVA leaders have already left for Delhi to meet the National Congress Party patriarch Sharad Pawar. 

Eknath Shinde was reportedly not happy with both Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Sanjay Raut. He was also displeased with the importance being given to Aaditya Thackeray. While the Shiv Sena has not anticipated such an extreme step by Shinde as he recently shared the stage with the CM and other party leaders on the 56th Anniversary of the Shiv Sena. He had also accompanied Aaditya Thackeray to Ayodhya. 

According to sources, Shinde was feeling frustrated in the party, and it was the undue interference of the Chief Minister’s Office over his departments (Urban Development and PWD) that led to the building up of the anger. Also, it is being speculated that Aaditya Thackeray was constantly interfering in the work of Shinde’s departments. 

All the Shinde supporters and party insiders are claiming that Shinde was not happy with the management of Shiv Sena affairs and with Sanjay Raut always having the last word in matters of coalition. They also claimed that many Shiv Sena MLAs raised complaints, but neither NCP MLAs nor Sharad Pawar cooperated, causing further cracks.  

Why The Future of the MVA Government Looks Gloomy? 

Well, the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) is definitely facing an unprecedented political crisis, especially after Shinde has gone incommunicado along with other MLAs. Reportedly, he is camping at a hotel in Surat with 11 party MLAs, the exact gap that the BJP needs to bridge in the assembly and oust the MVA coalition from power. 

After the Rajya Sabha polls, the MLC elections have given another blow to the MVA government in Maharashtra. Just in case the Bhartiya Janata Party gets the support of the Shinde group, the MVA government may enter another phase of political uncertainty. The MVA government witnessed a similar political crisis after the 2019 Assembly Elections. Interestingly, all was handled well by the same politician who is now making a rebellion against Uddhav Thackeray using the same strategy. 

Was Eknath Shinde Ever In The Race to Become The Maharashtra CM?

While there is no solid proof of the claim, sources suggest that Eknath Shinde had nursed the dream of becoming Maharashtra’s CM in 2019. However, due to the behest of Sanjay Raut and Subhash Desai, Shinde had to give up his plans as they thought Uddhav Thackeray would be a better choice for the CM post. 

“When it was announced in 2019 that a Shiv Sainik will be the CM, Eknath Shinde was the frontrunner. It was on the behest of Sanjay Raut and Subhash Desai, who claimed that Uddhav Thackeray would be a better choice than Shinde, that he took over the reins. He has been nursing his wounds since then. The last straw on the camel’s back was giving Raut the responsibility of the MLC and RS seats. We are not sure if he plans to topple the government or work out a strategy with the Shiv Sena,” said a Congress leader on the condition of anonymity. 

Is BJP Involved In The Eknath Shinde Matter? 

A lot of party insiders and sources are claiming the involvement of the Bhartiya Janata Party in ‘horse trading’ and ‘working secret pacts’ with Shinde. However, BJP has denied the same. Former CM Devendra Fadnavis said that the results have exposed the internal unrest in the ruling coalition MLAs. Some have even pointed out that Shinde has gone to Surat, which is in Gujarat, governed by the BJP. 

“So far, there has not been any proposal regarding government formation neither from the BJP nor from Eknath Shinde, but anything can happen in politics at any time,” said BJP Chief Chandrakant Patil. Another speculation that suggests the involvement of the BJP is that Eknath Shinde and Devendra Fadnavis’ bond goes long back. 

“BJP is running Operation Lotus from Gujarat. Let the BJP continue with it. Our operation will start later,” said Sanjay Raut. “Around 14-15 MLAs are in Surat, and we are waiting for some of them to return. We have no plans as of now. We are watching the situation. Let the BJP do whatever it wants,” added the leader. 

Some sources have also suggested that Eknath Shinde might form a new political party. 

Who Is Eknath Shinde? 

Eknath Shinde currently serves as the Minister of Urban Affairs in the MVA government. Shinde is a senior leader who is responsible for strengthening the party in many places. Shinde has been elected consecutively for four terms in the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly (2004,2009, 2014, and 2019). He was also elected as the leader of Shiv Sena and the Leader of Opposition in the Maharashtra Assembly after his 2014 win. Shinde’s son Shrikant is a Lok Sabha MP, and his brother Prakash is a Councillor. 

Eknath Shinde has had a humble beginning with being an auto-rickshaw and tempo driver who scaled up the Shiv Sena party with his dedication and sharp mind. Soon enough, Shinde became a part of Uddhav Thackeray’s inner circle with a strategic position in the party.  

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray To Resign? 

As the political crisis unfolds in the MVA government, Sharad Pawar and CM Uddhav Thackeray are likely to meet at Varsha Bungalow at 9 pm today. As per sources, in a closed-door meeting, Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray has also offered to step down for Eknath Shinde to become the new Maharashtra CM. Meanwhile, senior leader Sharad Pawar said that he had no idea that Eknath Shinde wanted to become the CM, and it depended on the Shiv Sena party’s collective decision. Another Congress leader has claimed that Shinde wants the post of Deputy Chief Minister in the state. However, the claims remain unverified. 

In the recent development, the Shiv Sena has removed Eknath Shinde as the Legislative Party group leader and appointed another Legislature, Ajay Chaudhary. Eknath Shinde has also removed ‘Sena’ from his Twitter bio. The new bio says: “Cabinet Minister of Urban Development and PWD (Public Undertakings) MH State | Guardian Minister, Thane & Gadchiroli Dist’

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