Eknath Shinde (extreme left) will replace Uddhav Thackeray (extreme right)
Eknath Shinde, the man who cornered Uddhav Thackeray into resigning last night, will replace him as Chief Minister less than 24 hours later.
The unexpected climax of a nine-day drama was announced by Devendra Fadnavis of the BJP, who was widely expected to be the new Maharashtra Chief Minister. Through the day, the media reported that Mr Shinde would be his deputy.
Mr Shinde told reporters before flying into Mumbai today – he had not been in the city for over a week – that negotiations were underway with Mr Fadnavis for ministries. There was nothing to suggest that Mr Fadnavis would not in fact take the top job. “I will not be part of the government,” said Mr Fadnavis, who has served twice as Chief Minister.
Mr Shinde said Mr Fadnavis showed a “big heart”. “He showed his big heart, nobody does this…Someone who has 120 MLAs…Nobody lets go even the post of Panchayat or civic body chief. This is the Chief Minister’s post,” he said.
Mr Shinde will take oath alone tonight at 7:30, the BJP leader said. In a sign of the manoeuvring involved in dividing posts, Mr Fadnavis said, “Expansion will follow,” referring to other MLAs including independents who will participate in the new government. Mr Fadnavis’ sacrifice of his dream job is intended to deflect criticism of his central role in what started out as a stealth attack and ended as anything but.
On Monday last, in the middle of the night, Mr Shinde deserted Mr Thackeray along with about 20 other MLAs from the Shiv Sena. The revolt had been brewing for months; “we knew it,” said Aaditya Thackeray in an interview to ., repeating what his father has said over the last week, “we were betrayed by our own.”
Mr Shinde who, in tandem with Mr Fadnavis, had blueprinted the revolt, took his show on the road to Surat (a one-day stop), and then to Guwahati in Assam, where the Sena rebels spent eight days in a five-star hotel, inaccessible to anyone except ministers in the local BJP government. Their camp seemed to enlarge every day, with new arrivals from Mumbai. Mr Thackeray’s team numbered 15 MLAs, finally; Mr Shinde had 39 of the party’s 55. There was little doubt of which way the scales were tipped.
Mr Thackeray resigned last night in a Facebook speech, minutes after the Supreme Court said he must prove his majority in the Maharashtra Assembly today. By asking for the vote to be delayed, Mr Thackeray’s squad had sought to buy time.
Mr Shinde turned against Mr Thackeray because the right-wing ideology of the Sena has been greatly compromised since 2019, when the latter ended the party’s three-decade-long alliance with the BJP. Mr Thackeray braided the party instead with the Congress and Sharad Pawar’s NCP and became Chief Minister of the new combine.
“To have three parties with different perspectives working together for governance, that is democracy,” Aditya Thackeray told . today, defending his father’s decision. “Those who left us -some of them were brainwashed by those with monster ambition,” he said.
Uddhav Thackeray had asked the rebels to consider this: “If I step down, can you guarantee another Sainik will be Chief Minister?” He meant to underscore that the Sena rebels would be reduced to a prop for the BJP. Mr Shinde’s promotion flattens that argument.
The Thackerays are now in danger of losing their pole position in the Sena. Mr Shinde has said that with 39 of 55 MLAs, his faction is the legitimate Sena and its orders and appointments are therefore binding on Mr Thackeray’s team. That is the ultimate challenge for Mr Thackeray to be presented with – that the party founded by his father is no longer his. When asked on . about whether the Sena is feasible without the Thackerays, Aaditya Thackeray said, “Let those who have done this to us answer that.”
In fact, they have. A legal battle is developing for control of the Shiv Sena. It is political showtime at its pulsating best.
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