With as many as 42 Maharashtra MLAs on his side, Shiv Sena rebel Eknath Shinde is likely to stake claim to the party election symbol after an emotional Uddhav Thackeray suggested at stepping down as chief minister.
The worst-ever political crisis unravelling in the state of Maharashtra currently is the result of a storm that was brewing for some time now, the warnings for which might have been ignored by the one man at the centre of it all – Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.
Sharad Pawar’s warning to Uddhav
The Nationalist Congress Party veteran had warned Uddhav months ago about the “growing anxiety” among Sena leaders of the Maha Vikas Aghadi coalition.
“Sharad Pawar had warned Uddhav Thackeray at least four to five months ago and had advised him to start meeting his party leaders and other ministers of MVA,” The Indian Express reported quoting a high-level political source.
Pawar had sensed the mounting disagreement among Sena leaders on the “inaccessibility” of the party chief.
The report said that even Pawar could not meet the chief minister on a few occasions.
“Pawar was upset with the inaccessibility of the CM who was not sparing time to meet political leaders across parties,” the source said.
A few MLAs of MVA had told Pawar that they felt isolated and unwanted in the government as Thackeray hadn’t heard them and it was difficult to speak to him.
State intel alerted the Maharashtra government two months ago
Another report by The Indian Express said that the State Intelligence Department (SID), which is earmarked to keep a close eye on the political developments in Maharashtra, had informed the government that eight to 10 of its MLAs, including Shinde, were in touch with Opposition leaders.
It is believed that despite the confidential information from the intelligence officials two months ago no action was taken on it.
The SID informs the government in advance about political developments, crims, terrorist and Maoist activities. Information on political developments is often given verbally to the government.
Inaccessibility of Thackeray irked MLAs more when the chief minister would rather communicate with his partymen and allies through a select group of people. At one point of time, Thackeray even entrusted Shinde to address the concerns of MLAs instead of doing so himself.
Soon after taking over as chief minister, Thackeray was confined to his home because of the COVID pandemic and a spine surgery. The distance between Thackeray and Sena leaders frustrated them even further when they had to go through intermediaries such as Anil Parab or Milind Narvekar.
The chief minister’s propensity to rely on middlemen wasn’t limited to party politics. Even when involved in the government’s administration, Thackeray relied heavily on bureaucrats, such as Chief Secretary Ajoy Mehta and his successor SJ Kunte, The Indian Express reported.
The chief minister was also accused of not taking interest in administration, even though he was seen at the forefront of the state’s COVID management.
“The CM would discuss his hobby of photography and wildlife sighting. I had to plead with the CM’s secretariat to get files cleared,” a retired additional chief secretary said, as reported by The Indian Express.
Concern among Sena leaders over Congress-NCP alliance
Thackeray also failed to measure the uneasiness felt by Sena leaders over the coalition with the Congress and NCP. It was believed by many that the alliance was not healthy for Sena’s own political growth.
The party was also being seen as adapting to a less-strident Hindutva politics. Some, including Shinde, have accused Thackeray of distancing the party from Bal Thackeray’s ideology of Hindutva.
With inputs from agencies