Shinde Is Shiv Sena: How Different Parties Reacted To ECI Verdict, And What It Says About Maharashtra's Political Future


Feb 20, 2023, 06:23 PM | Updated 06:23 PM IST

Sharad Pawar, Amit Shah, Uddhav Thackeray, Nana Patole
Sharad Pawar, Amit Shah, Uddhav Thackeray, Nana Patole
  • When the 'rebellion' in the Shiv Sena was engineered in June 2022, this was likely the best-case outcome for the BJP.
  • It has now Shiv Sena as its ally, but without the Thackerays.
  • It has been a long time since we saw Amit Shah in his forthright political elements. Mincing no words, Shah took a jibe at Uddhav Thackeray, who had switched sides to the Congress-NCP after being a long-time NDA constituent.

    Amit Shah's Attack on Thackeray

    Speaking at an event, Shah said that the Election Commission of India (ECI) did “doodh ka doodh, pani ka pani” (made it plain) on the body allotting the name 'Shiv Sena' and its poll symbol 'bow and arrow' to the Eknath Shinde-led party.

    He did not stop at that. Shah added that "during the (2019) state election, I was the party chief. We fought the election together, [he] put up a bigger photo of Modiji than his (Thackeray), and contested the election by acknowledging Fadnavis as the leader. But to become CM, (he) went on to lick the soles of people having an opposite ideology”.

    BJP Remains Unscathed

    The BJP, in the entire episode, has come out unscathed and stronger. It has now Shiv Sena as its ally, but without the Thackerays. When the 'rebellion' in the Shiv Sena was engineered in June 2022, this was likely the best-case outcome for the BJP.

    Today, it is the reality.

    The alliance with Eknath Shinde as chief minister continues on course, and Shah has even announced his target of the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance winning all the 48 Lok Sabha seats of Maharashtra in 2024.

    Sharad Pawar's Opportunism

    There is further disappointment awaiting Thackeray, as his recent ally, Nationalist Congress Party supremo, Sharad Pawar, too seems resigned to the EC decision. In fact, he has gone on record to say that Thackeray should give up on his fight and instead start over with a new party name and symbol.

    For the shrewd politician that Pawar is reported to be, he would not mind the Thackerays weakened. He would perceive it as an opportunity to establish NCP as one of the two main poles of Maharastra politics, with the other being BJP-led NDA.

    With Congress shrinking and going through internal feud of its own and Thackerays, too, defeated, he has emerged as the stronger and senior-most partner of the Maha Vikas Agadhi (MVA) and hopes to steer it the near future.

    Congress’s Dilemma

    Congress, on the other hand, has taken a clear stance in favour of Thackeray, even accusing the ECI of bias in their decision. But will this translate into real support on the ground?

    It's doubtful that Congress would give up any ground to the Thackeray clan willingly, especially when its own future appears uncertain. According to Maharashtra-watcher, Mandar Sawant, Congress is unlikely to hand over its seats with a sizeable Muslim population to the Thackerays without a fight. Thus, seat-sharing negotiations within the MVA are likely to be tumultuous.

    Thackeray's Response

    Uddhav Thackeray, quite expectedly, has not taken the decision in his stride. Apart from filing an appeal in the Supreme Court against the ECI’s order, he has also begun his attack on the BJP and CM Eknath Shinde.

    In a media briefing today, he dared Shinde to put the photo of his father and seek votes.

    Thackeray appears to be clutching at straws to leverage his father's legacy, proclaiming himself as the sole rightful heir, while Shinde asserts himself as the defender of Balasaheb's ideological legacy. The Thackerays, much like the Gandhis and other dynasty-led parties, are facing the same obstacle: their heavy reliance on family lineage is repelling an increasingly evolving and youthful India.

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