Other States

Fadnavis’ ‘masterstroke’ of nominating Eknath as CM takes wind out of Uddhav camp’s sails 

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Devendra Fadnavis’ decision of giving the post of Maharashtra’s Chief Minister to rebel Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde has lent a twist to the State’s political crisis worthy of a thriller, while baffling predictions of political pundits.

In one stroke, Mr. Fadnavis, by not choosing to be Chief Minister himself, has checkmated the Uddhav Thackeray-led Sena camp by not only making a Shiv Sainik the new Chief Minister, but deflecting the opprobrium that the BJP had toppled the tripartite ‘Maha Vikas Aghadi’ (MVA) government by instigating the revolt within the Sena.

The move has undercut the ‘moral legitimacy’ accrued by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, whose emotional addresses of the past week had won him sympathy among large sections of the public after the Chief Minister plaintively spoke of being “stabbed in the back by his own partymen” while being ironically supported by his MVA allies, the Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress – who have otherwise been the Sena’s traditional ideological rivals.

In one his addresses during the crisis before his resignation, Mr. Thackeray had said: “if I were to step down, then can you [meaning BJP] guarantee another Shiv Sainik will be Chief Minister?”

Maratha community

It was widely assumed that once the MVA government fell, Mr. Fadnavis would step in to be the new Chief Minister while Mr. Shinde would be offered the Deputy Chief Minister post.

With his ‘coup’, Mr. Fadnavis has certainly deflated that claim by making Mr. Shinde – a member of the Maratha community – the Chief Minister. The move also strengthens Mr. Fadnavis’ standing among the Maratha community – given that the MVA had faced tremendous flak for failing to fight hard for the community’s interests in the Supreme Court after the latter scrapped the Maratha quota law.

Throughout the nine-day ‘regime change’ drama, the suddenness of the Sena revolt on June 21, and the subsequent ferrying of the rebel MLAs from one BJP ruled State to another (first Surat in Gujarat, then Guwahati in Assam and finally Panaji in Goa) had exposed the rebel camp led by Mr. Shinde and the BJP to charges of crass political opportunism, with the actions of the rebels being motivated by either lucre or the pressure of central agencies.

Following Uddhav Thackeray’s ‘stab in the back’ addresses, there was a potential of the rank-and-file Shiv Sainiks rallying around Uddhav and Aaditya Thackeray in the near future, said a Mumbai-based analyst.

“However, by staying out of power and nominating Mr. Shinde as Chief Minister, Mr. Fadnavis has lent credibility and justification to the moves of the rebel camp. The whole change of government can now be justified as having been a fight over ideals by giving it a ‘Hindutva’ gloss,” he said.

Jubilant Sena rebels

The rebel Sena MLAs, still holed out in rain-hit Goa, were jubilant after the announcement of Mr. Shinde as CM.

“Balasaheb Thackeray’s dream of having an ordinary Shiv Sainik on the chair has come true with the help of the BJP and Devendra Fadnavis. We will now take the ideals of Hindutva forward,” said Sena MLA Deepak Kesarkar, the spokesperson of the Shinde faction.

The announcement of Mr. Shinde as CM has also quelled several restive sections within the Shiv Sena, who are now more likely to embrace the Shinde camp.

Mr. Fadnavis’ move has now virtually isolated the Thackeray family. The actions of the rebels, who have been claiming they were doing it to save the party of Balasaheb Thackeray, has suddenly been justified.

The move is also expected to help mitigate potential legal complications like fight over the Sena bow and arrow symbol. According to sources, a significant number of the Sena MPs are said to be with the Shinde camp giving it a greater claim to be the real Sena of Bal Thackeray than the faction led by Uddhav Thackeray.

The rebel coterie has repeatedly held Sena MP Sanjay Raut and Minister Anil Parab – part of the Thackeray ‘inner circle’ – as being responsible for widening the gulf between Mr. Thackeray and the MLAs.

“With both Mr. Raut and Mr. Parab under the Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) scanner, the BJP has cleverly ensured that the prosecution by central agencies will go on under a Sena Chief Minister [Mr. Shinde], who is unlikely to raise a finger in protest. If both Mr. Raut and Mr. Parab go the way of [jailed NCP leaders] Nawab Malik and Anil Deshmukh, this will further weaken the Thackeray camp,” said another political observer.

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Printable version | Aug 5, 2022 4:05:51 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/fadnavis-masterstroke-of-nominating-eknath-as-cm-takes-wind-out-of-uddhav-camps-sails/article65586209.ece