Eknath Shinde: Auto driver, diehard Sainik, neta with a grudge

Times of India | 4 days ago | 22-06-2022 | 07:31 am

Eknath Shinde: Auto driver, diehard Sainik, neta with a grudge

THANE: Eknath Shinde, who has engineered the biggest revolt to hit Shiv Sena in over 15 years, has been a die-hard Sainik since the 1980s. Even as he raised the banner of revolt, he signalled his commitment to the Hindutva cause and paid tribute to his mentors with a tweet, "We are Balasaheb's staunch Shiv Sainiks... Balasaheb has taught us Hindutva...We will not compromise on the thoughts of Balasaheb and the teachings of Anand Dighe Saheb for power..." The four-time legislator and strongman represents the Sena heartland of Thane. Groomed by the late party firebrand Anand Dighe, he has had a steady rise in the party. Beginning as a shakha activist from the Kisan Nagar area, he was elected a corporator before becoming a MLA and cabinet member. The 58-year-old native of Satara had a humble origin in a neighbourhood in Wagle Estate, the area he now represents. He started off in a private firm and worked as an auto driver before he caught the attention of his mentor in the 1980s. Shinde's ability to mobilise participation for Sena's protests and welfare programs earned him Dighe's trust. Be it participating in an agitation on the Maharashtra-Karnataka border issue or against black-marketing of essentials, Shinde was at the forefront even as a shakha pramukh in Kisan Nagar. Old timers in the party recall that Shinde had decided to quit active politics following a personal tragedy, but Dighe who had seen the spark in him, encouraged him to stay on. "Since then there has been no looking back for Shinde, he never allowed personal issues to affect his work to grow the party," said a long time acolyte. His first tryst with electoral politics was in 1997 when Dighe spurred him on to contest the Thane corporation polls. He won by a decent margin. His work in the Thane corporation prompted Dighe to elevate him as Leader of the House, a post he served diligently for four years until he was given an opportunity to contest the assembly elections in 2004 from Thane city. His strong connection with grassroots ensured he won three subsequent terms consecutively from Kopri Panchpakhadi in the city. People close to Shinde say he has a feel for the pulse of the common man. His strategies have enabled the party to win various civic body polls over the last two decades not just in Thane but even in north Maharashtra. Observers recall how he weaned away 30 BJP corporators in the Jalgaon Municipal Corporation to help Sena win the mayoral polls last March despite BJP being in a majority there. Shinde is also known as one of the few Sena leaders who reaches out to leaders as well as common citizens across the spectrum. "Shinde often calls up leaders across parties to enquire about their wellbeing," said a Sena functionary from north Maharashtra. A party colleague said Shinde shared a rapport with BJP leaders despite the strained ties between the erstwhile alllies. "BJP has never made allegations against Shinde or his departments. He has also remained out of the ED, CBI and IT radar till now indicating his rapport with BJP." At the same time, Shinde was at the forefront in staunching dissidence within his own party until now. "There have been innumerable cases wherein he has stepped in in time and averted defections such as that of a prominent functionary who was wooed away by BJP in recent years," said a party colleague. The fact that many seniors in the Thane Sena unit are standing by for his orders before they make their next move is a testimony to his popularity, said a colleague. A senior leader said Shinde had lost patience now as he was being sidelined by certain elements within the party who felt insecure because of his popularity. "It was evident that he was not happy with the direction the party was headed in," said the party functionary. Shinde's misgivings about the Sena's alliance with Congress and NCP and what he perceived as a steady erosion in the party's traditional vote banks as a consequence are also the cause of the present rebellion.

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Maharashtra political crisis: Now, 8th minister jumps ship; only 3 Sena men left in Uddhav cabinet
Times of India | 57 minutes ago | 27-06-2022 | 02:08 am
Times of India
57 minutes ago | 27-06-2022 | 02:08 am

MUMBAI: With the Shiv Sena on the warpath in a bid to reclaim the party, the rebel Eknath Shinde faction retaliated strongly on Sunday bringing higher education minister Uday Samant over to Guwahati to join the coup. The rebel camp also moved the Supreme Court against the disqualification notices sent to 16 of their MLAs by deputy speaker of the state assembly Narhari Zirwal. A second petition demands that Zirwal recognise Shinde as group leader of the Shiv Sena's legislature party. Late in the night, Shinde tweeted against the MVA alliance: "How can Balasaheb's Shiv Sena support those who have ties to Dawood Ibrahim who orchestrated the bomb blasts? I took these steps to oppose this." मुंबई बाँबस्फोट घडवून निष्पाप मुंबईकरांचा जीव घेणाऱ्या दाऊदशी थेट संबंध असणाऱ्यांना हिंदुहृदयसम्राट वंदनीय बाळासाहे… https://t.co/4laJD1hAWp— Eknath Shinde - एकनाथ शिंदे (@mieknathshinde) 1656260089000Samant, who was earlier with the NCP, is the eighth minister to switch sides from chief minister Uddhav Thackeray's cabinet. This leaves just three Sena ministers in the cabinet. Read AlsoWho owns brand Bal Thackeray: Saininks or the Thackerays?The rebel Shiv Sainiks led by Eknath Shinde have decided to call themselves Shiv Sena Balasaheb. This has opened a new front in their battle with Uddhav Thackeray – a brand warBusy weekend for rebels as they boost tally; party lividMaharashtra higher education minister Uday Samant, who joined the rebel faction on Sunday, has reportedly negotiated for a cabinet berth and guardian ministership of Ratnagiri in the new government. The rebel group will seek more time to respond to the disqualification notices sent to its 16 MLAs. The deadline is Monday evening. "We should be given one week's time since this is not an emergency," said rebel MLA Deepak Kesarkar. Meanwhile, BJP leader and Union minister Raosaheb Danve stirred the pot with his comment at a rally in Jalna where he said, "We will only remain in the opposition for two-three days". Fifteen rebel MLAs received Y+ protection from the CRPF by Sunday morning, a day after governor B S Koshyari had written to the Union home secretary. In his letter, he said that he had written to the state police to provide protection to 47 MLAs. "Police security is a state subject. This shows the hand of the BJP," said the Shiv Sena's Arvind Sawant. In order to boost the morale of the cadre, Shiv Sena held rallies and demonstrations through Sunday. However, party leader Sanjay Raut stoked a new controversy with his explosive utterances against the rebels at a rally in Dahisar. "The 40 MLAs are living corpses. Their souls are dead," he said. He later added, "The corpses of 40 MLAs will come here. We will send them for a post-mortem to the state assembly." Read AlsoHow 'woke' Sena lost touch with its supportersSena’s New Gen fell for praise from ‘liberals’, didn’t listen to restive cadre. Implosion was inevitableTaking another dig at the rebel camp, Raut said, "In the Kamakhya temple, they sacrifice goats. We have sent 40 goats. Do the sacrifice". Taunting the ministers who had switched sides, he said Sandipan Bhumre was once a watchman in a sugar factory. "Water supply minister Gulabrao Patil was a chai-tapriwala and will go back to being one," he said. Raut's comments drew a strong reaction from rebel MLA Deepak Kesarkar. "Such was Bal Thackeray's greatness that he gave opportunities to all. Raut should control what he says," he pointed out. At his rally in Santacruz, Aaditya Thackeray dared the rebels to resign and face an election. "The bow and arrow symbol will remain ours and the rebels will have to merge with another party," he warned. He said 15-16 rebels were with Shiv Sena and wanted to return. "It's sad to see these MLAs enjoying themselves in a hotel. There is a flood in Assam and people don't have enough to eat." Read AlsoWhy this Shiv Sena's revolt is worse than the past onesShiv Sainiks have challenged their high command in the past, but this time there’s a difference – which is why it's likely to be fatalEmphasising that the rebels were on shaky legal ground, Sena held a press conference with their lawyer, SC advocate Devadatt Kamat. "Legally, disqualification can be invoked for anti-party activities. The MLAs did not attend meetings that were called in an emergency situation," he said. He added that after 2003, a splinter group with 2/3rds majority could escape the anti-defection law only if they merged with another party. He also said that the deputy speaker could perform all the duties of a speaker and a no-confidence motion could not be moved against him if the state assembly was not in session. On the issue of the whip, he said, "A whip is selected by the original political party, not by the legislature party."

Maharashtra political crisis: Now, 8th minister jumps ship; only 3 Sena men left in Uddhav cabinet
Busy weekend for rebels as they boost tally; party livid
Times of India | 1 hour ago | 27-06-2022 | 01:39 am
Times of India
1 hour ago | 27-06-2022 | 01:39 am

Mumbai: Maharashtra higher education minister Uday Samant, who joined the rebel faction on Sunday, has reportedly negotiated for a cabinet berth and guardian ministership of Ratnagiri in the new government. The rebel group will seek more time to respond to the disqualification notices sent to its 16 MLAs. The deadline is Monday evening. "We should be given one week's time since this is not an emergency," said rebel MLA Deepak Kesarkar. Meanwhile, BJP leader and Union minister Raosaheb Danve stirred the pot with his comment at a rally in Jalna where he said, "We will only remain in the opposition for two-three days". Fifteen rebel MLAs received Y+ protection from the CRPF by Sunday morning, a day after governor B S Koshyari had written to the Union home secretary. In his letter, he said that he had written to the state police to provide protection to 47 MLAs. "Police security is a state subject. This shows the hand of the BJP," said the Shiv Sena's Arvind Sawant. In order to boost the morale of the cadre, Shiv Sena held rallies and demonstrations through Sunday. However, party leader Sanjay Raut stoked a new controversy with his explosive utterances against the rebels at a rally in Dahisar. "The 40 MLAs are living corpses. Their souls are dead," he said. He later added, "The corpses of 40 MLAs will come here. We will send them for a post-mortem to the state assembly." Taking another dig at the rebel camp, Raut said, "In the Kamakhya temple, they sacrifice goats. We have sent 40 goats. Do the sacrifice". Taunting the ministers who had switched sides, he said Sandipan Bhumre was once a watchman in a sugar factory. "Water supply minister Gulabrao Patil was a chai-tapriwala and will go back to being one," he said. Raut's comments drew a strong reaction from rebel MLA Deepak Kesarkar. "Such was Bal Thackeray's greatness that he gave opportunities to all. Raut should control what he says," he pointed out. At his rally in Santacruz, Aaditya Thackeray dared the rebels to resign and face an election. "The bow and arrow symbol will remain ours and the rebels will have to merge with another party," he warned. He said 15-16 rebels were with Shiv Sena and wanted to return. "It's sad to see these MLAs enjoying themselves in a hotel. There is a flood in Assam and people don't have enough to eat." Emphasising that the rebels were on shaky legal ground, Sena held a press conference with their lawyer, SC advocate Devadatt Kamat. "Legally, disqualification can be invoked for anti-party activities. The MLAs did not attend meetings that were called in an emergency situation," he said. He added that after 2003, a splinter group with 2/3rds majority could escape the anti-defection law only if they merged with another party. He also said that the deputy speaker could perform all the duties of a speaker and a no-confidence motion could not be moved against him if the state assembly was not in session. On the issue of the whip, he said, "A whip is selected by the original political party, not by the legislature party."

Busy weekend for rebels as they boost tally; party livid
Mumbai confidential: Last-minute packing
The Indian Express | 2 hours ago | 27-06-2022 | 12:45 am
The Indian Express
2 hours ago | 27-06-2022 | 12:45 am

A number of MLAs who flew to Guwahati to join the Eknath Shinde faction of the Shiv Sena had to pack their bags in great hurry. They were all taken to Surat via Palghar and then flown to Assam capital. In the rush, many of them forgot to carry along necessities such as night clothes, shaving kits and cellphone chargers. Sources in Shinde camp said that the local BJP unit in Guwahati was sent to the market to buy these items, including undergarments, for the MLAs.Naming ideasWith the Shiv Sena alleging that agencies such as the Enforcement Directorate (ED) were being used to break the MVA government apart, and that rebel leader Eknath Shinde and leader of opposition Devendra Fadnavis are likely to head a BJP government next, a leader of the Sena has started referring to it as “ED government” with E standing for Eknath and D for Devendra.Staying in touchA number of rebel Shiv Sena MLAs have created their own WhatsApp groups of supporters and workers in their constituencies as a way to communicate with their support base. Post the rebellion when many MLAs went incommunicado after shifting to Guwahati, these WhatsApp groups have become their sounding boards with these leaders receiving brickbats as well as bouquet emojis for their act.‘What a hotel!’Rebel Shiv Sena MLA Shahji Bapu Patil’s gushing description of the surroundings of the place in which he is presently putting up in Guwahati has led to a virtual meme fest on social media. In an audio clip of Patil’s conversation with one of his supporters after the rebellion, the leader is heard exclaiming “Kay Jhadi, Kay Dongar, Kay Hotel” (What trees, what mountains, what a hotel!). The utterances by the first-time MLA from Sangola has led to a number of memes, and a swipe from the Shiv Sena which remarked that Patil can see beautiful trees, mountains and hotels in Maharashtra as well.(Contributed by: Yogesh Naik and Zeeshan Shaikh)

Mumbai confidential: Last-minute packing
The crisis in Maharashtra shows the anti-defection law to be ineffective, even counterproductive
The Indian Express | 4 hours ago | 26-06-2022 | 10:45 pm
The Indian Express
4 hours ago | 26-06-2022 | 10:45 pm

The political crisis in Maharashtra has brought focus back on the anti-defection law. By all accounts, the law has failed to shore up the stability of elected governments. Not only have many governments fallen due to defections in recent times, but the defectors have not suffered any cautionary consequences. There are many ways to thwart provisions of the law: the Speaker can sit on the defection pleas for the term of the assembly; the beneficiary party can facilitate accretion of defectors through money and investigative agencies to hit the magic two-thirds threshold. The voters don’t seem to care about punishing the defectors either – 11 out of the 14 defectors who stood for re-election in the 2019 Karnataka bypolls won on the BJP ticket. Some have thus argued that the way forward is to amend the anti-defection law to fill these lacunae by mandating time-bound decisions by the Speaker and disqualifying defectors from standing for the next election as well. These proposed amendments like the original law want to consolidate power without necessarily putting in the requisite politics. They may thus help consolidate the leadership’s intra-party power but the underlying aversion to ongoing politics leaves them vulnerable to bigger external powers.First, it should be obvious that the practice of politics is too wide for any institutional process to fully capture. Politicians are adept at subverting institutional processes for their own ends and there are many possibilities for payoff for defectors outside of elected office alone. Moreover, politics has a rich history of exercise of power by proxy and the disqualified representative may simply choose to have a family member stand in their stead. It thus seems unlikely that these amendments can plug the gap in any substantive manner, especially if the defections have been engineered by the threat of investigative agencies. The anti-defection law and proposed amendments approach the issue of defections from the prism of denying power to the defector, a framing which repeatedly comes up short in the face of a bigger and/or more punitive power. Beleaguered parties may denounce the BJP but in the absence of mobilization of public opinion, these condemnations have at best rhetorical value, moving neither the BJP nor the defectors.Within this framework, if political parties want to resist defections, they must be able to project (imminent) power themselves. At the same time, political parties must address organizational and ideological infirmities which have made them susceptible to mass defections in the first place. There are only about 4000 MLAs in a country with a population of almost 1.4 billion people. However, political parties tasked with representing the aspirations of crores of people are unable to find candidates who take themselves seriously enough to not cross over to political opponents. In fact the bar is so low that the MLAs have to be physically corralled and phones confiscated to ensure alignment with the Party stand. This is not apolitical outrage but has pragmatic organizational value. It is one thing for a few individuals to be susceptible to threats and inducement, another for the organization to be vulnerable to mass defections. Individuals can be faulted in the former but the latter calls for urgent introspective and corrective measures at the level of the leadership.Two measures with both short-term and long-term implications come to mind. First, political parties need ideological clarity and the ability to attract individuals with a sense of purpose and not love for power alone. This ideological depth if reflected in the party organization and its political programs will give members the ability to withstand lean periods of power. Every party has committed individuals; internal party processes must be geared to identify and promote them into leadership positions. This ties into the second issue. Multiple analyses have attributed the political crisis in Maharashtra in part to Shiv Sena’s inability to accommodate the aspirations of its dissident MLAs. The rebel MLAs on their part have spoken of the Chief Minister’s inaccessibility. The MLAs may be opportunistic but there is no question that political parties are failing to create intra-party forums where grievances can be expressed and resolved on an ongoing basis. Internal mechanisms for inner-party democracy – from elections to deliberative forums – are ultimately at the discretion of the party leadership. Scrapping the anti-defection law would provide some institutional leverage to express intra-party dissidence and while it may be more chaotic in the short-term would lead to greater stability and political strength in the long-term.Finally, two fundamental questions. In trying to legislate political affiliation – a key freedom in democracy – political parties are repeatedly giving primacy to legal instead of political battles since these issues inevitably end up in court. This repeated ceding of political power to the judiciary is a serious deviation from the democratic paradigm and must be checked. Second, the anti-defection law has undermined not just the very principle of representation but has also contributed to polarization in our country by making it impossible to construct a majority on any issue outside of party affiliation. Instead of providing stability, the law has undermined our democracy. It is time to scrap the anti-defection law.The writer executive director of the Future of India Foundation

The crisis in Maharashtra shows the anti-defection law to be ineffective, even counterproductive
Absent Akhilesh, strong BJP campaign & BSP: Why SP sank in Azamgarh, Rampur bypolls
The Indian Express | 4 hours ago | 26-06-2022 | 10:45 pm
The Indian Express
4 hours ago | 26-06-2022 | 10:45 pm

Read |UP bypolls result: BJP candidate Ghanshyam Singh Lodhi wins Rampur Lok Sabha seatWithout Akhilesh Yadav at the helm of its campaign and facing an aggressive campaign by the BJP, the Samajwadi Party (SP) lost the Lok Sabha by-elections in Rampur and Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh that were once considered its strongholds. The Bahujan Samaj Party’s (BSP) strong performance in Azamgarh heavily damaged the SP.By winning both the bypolls, the BJP on Sunday strengthened its already-dominant position in the state ahead of the urban local body elections that are due later this year and the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. The ruling party also dealt a crippling blow to the Opposition party whose tally in the Lok Sabha is now down to three. These losses will not only be a blow to the morale of the workers of the Akhilesh Yadav-led party but also weaken it ahead of next month’s presidential elections in which the party is backing the Opposition’s consensus candidate.The elections are also likely to raise questions about Akhilesh Yadav’s absence from campaigning in both Azamgarh, where his cousin Dharmendra Yadav was the contestant, and in Rampur the once bastion of senior SP leader Azam Khan now in the hands of the BJP. The veteran leader is also likely to face questions about his position in the party following this defeat as he had to negotiate hard with Akhilesh to give the candidature to his longtime associate Asim Raja.Though the BSP could not win Azamgarh — it did not contest Rampur — its candidate Shah Alam, popularly known as Guddu Jamali, got 2.66 lakh votes and effectively ended Dharmendra Yadav’s chances. Jamali is a two-time MLA from the constituency’s Mubarakpur Assembly segment. Reacting to the results, BSP president Mayawati said they had “shown that only the BSP has theoretical and ground strength to defeat the BJP”. She added the party would keep reaching out to Muslims “for a much-awaited political change in the state”.Like Akhilesh, Mayawati too stayed away from the campaign. For the BJP, putting its entire might into the campaign paid off as Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and almost his entire Cabinet canvassed for the party’s candidates in both seats on the plank of development and welfare benefits.AzamgarhThe SP won the constituency in the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections despite a wave of support across the country for the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Even in the state elections earlier this year, it won all the five Assembly segments in Azamgarh. But this time, the parliamentary constituency fell to the BJP as its candidate Dinesh Lal Yadav “Nirahua”, who lost to Akhilesh in 2019, ended up being second-time lucky.Given the dominance of Dalits, Muslims, and Yadavs in the 18-lakh-strong electorate of Azamgarh, the SP and the BSP were considered to be the main contenders in Azamgarh. But Nirahua, who drew large crowds of youth during campaigning, managed to take advantage of the Mayawati-led party eroding away the SP’s support base. The popular Bhojpuri actor-singer defeated Dharmendra Yadav by 8,679 votes and with a vote share of 34.39 per cent, slightly lower than the 35.1 per cent he had polled last time. The SP’s vote share slid from 60.36 per cent to 33.44 per cent, illustrating the damage caused by the BSP.Even though Azamgarh was an important seat for the party and it was crucial for it to give the impression of turning things around after the Assembly elections setback earlier this year, the SP leadership did not seem to make any concerted effort to consolidate Muslim and Yadav votes. Akhilesh also not turning up for the campaign did not help matters. The SP president had faced criticism during the initial period of the Covid-19 pandemic for not visiting the constituency.The party deployed its Muslim MLAs from other districts such as Ghazipur, Rampur, and even Maharashtra to campaign in the constituency. But a local like Jamali gained more traction with the locals, fuelling an insider versus outsider talk in the run-up to election day. The SP’s alleged silence on Muslim issues also seemed to not go down well with Muslim voters.RampurConsidered the citadel of Azam Khan, the SP left campaigning in Rampur to the veteran leader and his supporters, hoping they would ensure the party’s victory. But the BJP, which won two of the five Assembly segments in the state polls earlier this year, did not throw in the towel and mobilised its entire top leadership to storm Azam’s bastion.At least 16 state ministers reached out to voters in Rampur, where almost 52 per cent of voters are Muslims. But a low turnout of 41.39 per cent (63.19 per cent had voted in the 2019 polls when Azam was elected) aided the ruling party as it managed to increase its vote share from 42.33 per cent in 2019 to 51.96 per cent. The SP’s vote share meanwhile declined from 52.69 per cent to 46 per cent. After polling on Thursday, Azam and other leaders accused the police of intimidating voters and not allowing Muslim voters to move out to cast their votes.Some locals claimed that a section of Muslim voters also did not show interest in the bypoll as the candidate was not from Azam’s family. The veteran leader campaigned for Raja and tried to garner sympathy by narrating the hardships he and his family faced in prison. But the strategy failed in front of the BJP juggernaut and the SP leader could not benefit from the decision of the BSP and the Congress to not contest the election. With the BSP not in the fray, political observers said several Dalit voters chose the BJP. This helped the ruling party wrest control of the constituency.Commenting on the loss, an SP leader said, “The leadership now needs to review its political strategy of reaching out to different sections of voters and it also needs to revamp its team of counsellors.”

Absent Akhilesh, strong BJP campaign & BSP: Why SP sank in Azamgarh, Rampur bypolls