For the first time in the history of Shiv Sena, a non-Thackeray has become the paksha pramukh (head of the party).
Eknath Shinde not only successfully managed to dethrone Uddhav Thackeray from the post of chief minister, but also that of the party president — a post that, before Uddhav Thackeray, was permanently held by Balasaheb Thackeray, the founder of the party.
Last week, the Election Commission of India ruled in favour of Eknath Shinde, citing various reasons, including that the amendment carried out by the party in its constitution wasn't notified to the Election Commission.
The decision favoured Eknath Shinde, to take over the party name Shiv Sena and the symbol of the party that is 'Bow and Arrow'.
The Election Commission of India's decision came as a sudden gift to Shinde, and as a heavy blow to the Uddhav Thackeray camp.
The Thackeray camp was expecting that the symbol and the party would remain with them because they had the 'Thackeray' surname. However, the majority of the elected members of Parliament (MPs) and members of legislative assembly (MLAs) had sided with Eknath Shinde.
Even Thapa, a close aide of Balasaheb Thackeray, who along with Uddhav had lit the pyre of Senior Thackeray, chose Shinde over Matoshree, the official residence of the Thackerays.
All this was enough hint, for Uddhav and his camp to realise that the party was slipping away from him.
With every passing day since June 2022, when the change in the government took place in Maharashtra, most senior, junior and even mid-ranking leaders joined hands with Shinde.
The biggest grouse that the Shivsainiks held against Uddhav Thackeray, his son and their coterie was that the party had aligned with the Congress and NCP, with which the party had an ideological difference.
Balasaheb Thackeray had on several occasions made his displeasure known for the Congress party, and when Uddhav for the post of Chief Minister joined the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) alliance, it came as a blow to the party's ideology.
It was visible recently in Worli, a constituency that is represented by Aaditya Thackeray, where Chief Minister Eknath Shinde was felicitated by the locals.
This area also houses the Worli Koliwada, a village of the fishermen community, most of whom attended the rally, and openly expressed their displeasure against Aaditya, who — when a minister — was unable to solve the basic problem of the fisherfolk, whereas Shinde solved it within months of assuming the CM chair.
This is also important because, it has been a Shiv Sena candidate who has won for more than two decades now from the Worli Koliwada corporation seat.
Aaditya, to win this seat, had to get all strong contenders, including former NCP MLA from Worli, Sachin Ahir in the Shiv Sena fold.
But now it is being said that to counter Aaditya, the Shiv Sena led by Shinde is planning to put his cousin Nihar Thackeray as a candidate from this seat. Nihar is the son of Balasaheb Thackeray's eldest son Bindumadhav Thackeray. This gives us a glimpse of the preparation that Eknath Shinde is carrying out for the future.
The extraordinary significance of Shinde winning ECI battle
Over 200 shakhas in Mumbai, which play a vital role in solving even the minutest of scuffles between citizens of the area, will now be under the hold of Shinde. These shakhas are the power centres on which Uddhav was banking on, for the BMC election win, but now it is unlikely for him to make that impact.
Also, while most of the elected representatives of the Shiv Sena have sided with Eknath Shinde, and are following his whip, even those MLAs and MPs who are still with Uddhav Thackeray will have to follow Shinde's whip or end up losing their post.
Amit Shah, in his recent speech, named Uddhav Thackeray, and stated that one must never forgive one who backstabs them.
Uddhav couldn't even find support from his own alliance partners, with NCP chief Sharad Pawar asking him to start afresh and accept the ECI decision.
Amidst all this, the path for Uddhav Thackeray with every passing day is going to get hard.
Eknath Shinde and his Shiv Sena has claimed the party office in the legislature, and the claim on Shiv Sena Bhawan in Dadar's Shivaji Park — which has been the party's headquarters — is on.
There's a major tussle that has erupted between both the factions on the claim for Sena Bhawan; only time will tell who will get it, but the fight has begun.
With the Shinde camp getting the 'Bow and Arrow' symbol, Uddhav will have to look for a symbol and a new name, before the elections for the Municipal Corporations are announced.
The challenge for Uddhav is to convince people and get their support for a new name and new symbol, while Shinde will be able to piggy bank on the already established name and symbol.
Also with the symbol gone, Uddhav has possibly lost his prominence in the MVA, and his bargaining power has reduced too.
All this is likely to benefit the BJP in the BMC polls.
Mumbaikars are used to voting for the Sena and BJP alliance, and when they see the Lotus and Bow-and-Arrow symbols together, they are bound to vote for it, over a new symbol, immaterial whether a Thackeray is leading it or not.
The recall value of Shiv Sena and the symbol is huge in Mumbai Metropolitan Region, with several municipal corporations being held by the Shiv Sena for decades and now, with Shinde having both of it, he is set to gain.
Varun Singh, is a Mumbai-based journalist and tracks politics and other important news from the western region of the country. Varun has spent close to 18 years in journalism.
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