In a major setback to Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, his closest aide and party’s secretary Milind Narvekar is likely to desert the former to join Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’s camp.
Mr. Narvekar, a long-time confidante of the Thackeray family, continues to maintain a good rapport with Mr. Shinde and Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis even after the split in the party.
The frequent visits of Ravi Mhatre, a trusted aide of Shiv Sena founder the late Bal Thackeray, to Matoshree, the private residence of Thackerays in Bandra-East, created a buzz about a major change in Mr. Uddhav’s inner circle. Though an active member of the camp, it is said that Mr. Narvekar did not meet Thackeray or visit Matoshree for quite a long time after Mr. Uddhav reportedly distanced himself from the former.
“We don’t know if saheb (Mr. Uddhav) replaced his ‘right-hand’ Mr. Narvekar with Mr. Mhatre. But the atmosphere at the Sena Bhavan and Matoshree suggests that things have changed,” a senior public representative from the Thackeray camp said.
He said the Sena chief started to sideline Mr. Narvekar a while ago, and it became evident after Mr. Shinde visited his house at Khar during the Ganesh festival. “He (Mr. Uddhav) was much aware of the fact that Narvekar was in touch with CM Shinde, Mr. Fadnavis and other key members of the rival group, but tried to ignore it assuming that he was any day ‘his man’. But looks like equations have changed,” the senior Sena leader said.
Speaking to The Hindu, Mr. Narvenkar said that he does not want to say anything about his move. He neither denied nor confirmed his political affiliation. “Yesterday, I visited Shivtirth and reviewed the arrangements for the Dasara rally and shared the photographs with Uddhav saheb. I also visited Durga pandal at Bengal Club, and asked Aaditya (Aaditya Thackery) to visit,” he said.
A board member of Tirumala Tirupati Devastanams, Mr. Narvekar, was the key person in the distribution of tickets and used to call the shots when Shiv Sena was in power.
In fact, on June 20, he was even sent to Surat in Gujarat by the then CM Uddhav Thackeray as a ‘peacemaker’ to talk to Mr. Shinde who was camping there with rebel MLAs.
An offer he can’t refuse?
Ever since Mr. Shinde became the Chief Minister on June 30 after his rebellion with Shiv Sena MLAs, which led to the collapse of the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government, the rival faction has been claiming that several ‘key leaders’ from other camp were in touch and would soon join them but never mentioned any names.
However, on Saturday, Minister Gulabrao Patil claimed that Mr. Narvekar was allegedly ‘on his way’ to join their camp.
A section of leaders in the Thackeray camp, who always blamed Mr. Narvekar whenever there was a revolt in the party against its leadership, claims that his exit won’t have any significant impact on the cadre as he was never into public life. “Except for creating ‘gap’ between the supremo and the cadre, including MLAs and senior leaders, he never played any significant role. Neither he is a leader nor has a cadre,” another leader from the Thackeray camp alleged.
Sources in the Shinde camp, on the other hand, said that Mr. Narvekar was reportedly offered a nominated post to accommodate him should he move to the Shinde camp.