A grassroots Shiv Sena worker who rose to become one of the most powerful leaders in the party, Eknath Shinde is known for his raw style of functioning which avoids publicity. Mr. Shinde has been the party’s face in politically vital Thane and Palghar districts – bordering Mumbai – where he is responsible for Sena’s impressive performance in Lok Sabha, Assembly, and local body polls for over two decades and strengthening the party base in the region what is called as suburbs of the maximum city.
Despite being a powerful mass leader within the party, only next to Thackeray’s in comparison, Mr. Shinde has been fuming for being sidelined within the party folds. A four-time MLA from an urban seat of Thane, he was named as a legislative party leader in 2014.
Mr. Shinde handled an important department of Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) in the Devendra Fadnavis-led government. The MSRDC is constructing the ambitious Nagpur-Mumbai super communication highway worth over ₹55,000 crore. The project, was a brainchild of Mr. Fadnavis and Mr. Shinde, effectively implemented by both the leaders, paving the way for a cordial relations between the two.
It must be noted that while a number of Sena leaders have been probed by Central agencies or facing allegations, Mr. Shinde has not been accused publicly by BJP leaders. Mr. Shinde too has avoided targeting BJP despite the latter’s continuous attack on the Sena and the Thackeray family.
In Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, he retained the department, and additional responsibility of the Urban Development Department (UDD), which is normally handled by the Chief Ministers in previous governments, too was given to him.
According to close aides of Mr. Shinde, the roots of his rebellion can be found in constant interference from the CM office in his department and the coterie of Yuva Sena leaders, closer to Aaditya Thackeray, son of CM Uddhav Thackeray, who opposed and interfered in his decisions. Mr. Shinde’s frustration grew within the MVA after his recommendations for vital postings were overruled for the sake of relatively young party leaders from Yuva Sena close to junior Thackeray. He was reportedly sidelined from decision-making process within his own department of UDD.
On the other hand, Mr. Shinde emerged as an accessible, ready-to-help, and generous minister among Sena MLAs, especially those from rural areas, contrary to the restricted access with Mr. Thackeray.
Mr. Shinde’s son Shrikant is the party’s Lok Sabha MP from the Kalyan constituency. The minister’s influence on urban parts like Thane, Kalyan-Dombivli, Ulhasnagar, Navi Mumbai, Bhiwandi, Vasai-Virar, Mira-Bhayander, and other parts of Thane and Palghar district make him an important player in the State’s politics and an important catch for any other party.
Mr. Shinde recently promoted a Marathi-film Dharmaveer on the life late Anand Dighe, his mentor. The film has a dialogue promoting the punishment to those who betray the party. The irony is hard to miss.